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Opinion

The G7 summit and our holiday season show the fragility of emergency housing

As homeless people are forced to leave emergency accommodation for the G7 summit in Cornwall, local councillor Jayne Kirkham wonders where permanent solutions to homelessness may lie.

The G7 summit and the encroaching holiday season has flagged up a real weakness in homelessness and housing provision in Cornwall.

In the last week, at least 89 (I understand it may be more like 130 now) people who have been emergency housed by Cornwall Council/Housing during the pandemic in the large chain hotels in Cornwall have been ‘dislodged’ from their accommodation. The hotel chains have accepted block bookings relating to the G7 or for holidaymakers, rather than renew the rooms rented for emergency housing so homeless people are being evicted. This will likely be an ongoing issue as peak holiday season approaches.

Trying to rehouse 130 people at short notice in Cornwall in the summer with the place full due to the G7 is incredibly difficult and expensive. The worry is that some people will slip through the net and end up back on the streets. All the good work done engaging with the support services will be lost and they will go backwards.

Cornwall Housing took the step of installing homeless ‘pods’ in Truro and Penzance last year and are planning a new homeless centre in Truro with 11 rooms. They also received money from the Next Steps Accommodation Fund to purchase accommodation and fund support workers. They have done a lot of work in the last year in trying to get ‘everybody in’. Despite the rough sleeper count in November 2019 showing there were only 24 people rough sleeping in Cornwall, 168 people were given emergency accommodation in the first few months of the pandemic.

However, there is always more that could be done and the G7 and our summer holiday season have highlighted the current fragility of emergency housing provision in Cornwall. Particularly the part that is commissioned with national hotel chains and is incredibly expensive and hard to find at certain times of the year, due to our seasonal economy.

Much is spoken of the ‘legacy’ the G7 summit may provide to Cornwall. I would suggest that the government consider that the G7 has proven that we need extra support with our homelessness provision. I went up to Falmouth Rugby Club last night where there are 40 ‘pods’ for security staff to occupy during G7. These buildings were rented, but there will be similar across the duchy. Maybe if some of these housing pods could stay in Cornwall after the G7 moves on, along with some extra funding for more permanent accommodation, it would go some way to help plug a gaping hole. We obviously need more permanent and reliable options than booking rooms in hotels and holiday parks.

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