THE NUMBER of homelessness applications has more than doubled in South Lakeland over the past two years, from 42 to 104.

The council’s Housing Options Team expects that figure to rise significantly because of changes in the way benefits are paid, a lack of affordable housing and new legislation to be introduced from next April.  

The team says there are some big challenges to overcome, not least the unhelpful public perception of what a typical homeless person is.

“Sadly the stereotypical view is of a helpless drunk or drug addict asleep in a doorway, who either can’t or won’t help themselves. In reality the two biggest causes of homelessness are family breakdown or the loss of a tenancy, which could happen to anybody,” said Alan Davis, SLDC’s Housing Options manager.

The council has a statutory duty to assess homeless applications and then find accommodation, usually in social housing or the private rented sector. 

There are around 3,200 people currently on the waiting list for social housing in South Lakeland.

The council-run Town View Fields Hostel in Kendal has 18 single and family rooms, most of which are now always full. 

From April 2018 all councils will have extra responsibilities under the new Homeless Reduction Act to give meaningful support to help resolve and prevent homelessness.

SLDC now plans to introduce outreach appointment sessions in Windermere and Ulverston and hopes to persuade more private landlords to step in and offer accommodation, backed up by incentives and a package of support.