BRAINTREE Council is to send its new homelessness and rough sleeping strategy out to public consultation after it was revealed thousands of people in the district are currently on the council housing register.

The council's cabinet was presented with a report by housing boss Lynette Bowers-Flint which highlighted the increasing demand for temporary accommodation and social housing across the district.

Ms Bowers-Flint emphasised the need for early intervention, calling it “the best medicine” for “ending homelessness at the earliest opportunity”.

Of the 65 households in Braintree district currently registered as homeless and being housed in temporary accommodation, 97 residents are children.

In her report, Ms Bowers-Flint said a total of 1,179 households had presented as homeless in 2022-2023, with 2,387 people on the authority’s social housing register as of June last year.

She also said those seeking social or temporary accommodation today “have more complex needs than ever seen during previous years”.

Between 2021 and 2022, the proportion of households registered homelessness by the council who had a history of mental health issues stood at 32 per cent, compared to the national average for England of 25 per cent.

Councillor Tom Cunningham said: “It’s easy to wrongly assume that Braintree is an affluent district and that the standard of living is high for everyone.

“Reaffirming our commitment to the homeless and those who are most vulnerable in society indicates the compassionate side of this council.”

A second, non-statutory empty homes strategy was also proposed for adoption by Ms Bowers-Flint, with the intention to bring properties which had been left uninhabited and unfurnished for upwards of six months back into use in order to begin softening the pressure of housing demand across the district.

Although she said there is currently no target in place for the number of empty homes which the council wishes to repurpose through this scheme, she called the 2,600 empty properties in the district as recorded in September 2023 a “wasted resource” when considering how to reduce the growing social housing register.

The draft homelessness and rough sleeping strategy for 2023-2028 will go to public consultation the week commencing February 5, with a plan to implement the scheme from April.