Eden District Council has appointed Cllr. Doug Lawson to the newly created role of Homelessness Champion.
The appointment comes after Eden’s Homelessness Review and Strategy/Action Plan, which was adopted by the council February 2020, recommended that an elected councillor be selected to champion the issue of homelessness across all of Eden District Council’s business.
While Eden has historically low levels of rough sleeping, homelessness tends to be a hidden problem in the District as many people secure temporary and short-term accommodation, either through family and friend networks, or by presenting themselves to the council’s homelessness service, which can provide basic, temporary accommodation.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges to residents in the Eden area. Some 9,700 people, or 41 per cent of employments in the District are currently furloughed and there’s concern that when this ends on 31 October, the new Job Support Scheme won’t help all those jobs still affected by Covid-19.
Eden has already seen an increase of 130 per cent in Universal Credit claims and when other factors, such as the end of the eviction moratorium and the potential reduction in privately rented accommodation, are taken into account, it’s feared that this could lead to an increase in the number of homeless presentations.
Eden District Council’s Housing and Health Portfolio Holder, Cllr. Judith Derbyshire, said: “We are determined to provide strong strategic leadership on the issue of homelessness in Eden and the creation of the Homelessness Champion role will help us articulate the case for preventative action as well as taking proactive measures to help those affected into appropriate and viable long-term alternative accommodation.”
“I’m delighted that Cllr. Lawson has accepted the role as he is a passionate advocate on the issue of homelessness. He will be an excellent champion for some of our most vulnerable residents as we come to terms with the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Cllr. Lawson, who is the Green Party member for Penrith Carleton, said: “It was an honour for me to accept this new and challenging role for Eden District Council.
“As the spokesperson for homelessness, I look forward to ensuring that this issue is at the forefront of the debates around the Council’s post-Covid recovery programme. However, I’m also keen to highlight the huge role that the private and third sector can play, in conjunction with the public sector, in bringing forward long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem of homelessness.
“I’m also keen to promote the benefits of joint working with my colleagues on the council and will be looking to work with members from all parties to identify new approaches to the causes and consequences of this devastating issue.”
Phones lines are also available to provide 24 hour support: 01768 861499 or 0800 061 4232