Cornwall Council confirmed that 130 homeless people were moved from Cornwall hotels to make way for paying guests in early June.
Monique Collins, manager of homelessness charity DISC Newquay, says that these removals led to “at least six” people sleeping in tents handed out by the charity, while others slept in cars.
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Some people were placed in unsuitable accommodation, claimed Monique, with one vulnerable person housed in a noisy surf hostel which was “completely inappropriate” for his mental health needs.
Cornwall Council said they “continue to support those affected” by the removal from hotels, offering “alternative accommodation when a current placement has to end due to booking availability.”
“Some have chosen to make their own arrangements and others have not wanted to take up the offer of the available alternative accommodation,” they added.
“They want to stay in Cornwall”
Some of the offers of alternative accommodation, claims Monique, were “as far away as Plymouth.”
“Some of them were told they had to go to Plymouth, and many of them didn’t want to because they’re Cornish, they were born here and they want to stay here,” she said.
Having been moved around a week before the G7 leaders’ summit, Monique claims that the removal of homeless people from hotels was a result of block-bookings for G7 guests and police officers.
“Hotel rooms are now [after the G7] becoming available again for allocation… the council knew this was coming and they didn’t take action,” she said.
Cornwall Council, however, says that the removal of homeless people was not related to the G7 but was down to “seasonal pressures.”
“The lack of availability of temporary accommodation in local hotels is a seasonal issue which has been exacerbated by the exceptional number of people we are supporting due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said.
One in 16 homes vacant
As of October 2020, there were a total of 7,093 empty homes in Cornwall, according to the Council Tax Base.
On top of this, there were 13,642 dwellings registered as second homes, which usually lie empty for part of the year.
Taken together, there are 16,713 empty and second homes in Cornwall, representing one out of every 16 dwellings in the region.
Monique says that Covid has worsened an already-dire housing situation in Cornwall, with a lack of “housing that is affordable for local people,” both to buy and to rent.
“Since Covid, I’ve had families coming in and saying they’ve got nothing left after paying rent,” she says.
“We need housing”
The G7 leaders summit had been billed as a significant opportunity for improvement in Cornwall, but Monique says she is yet to see the material benefits.
“I’d like to know where the benefits are being reaped...you’ve got Boris saying they’re going to bring electric scooters to Cornwall. We don’t need eclectic scooters, we need housing,” she said.
Cornwall Council said that addressing housing issues is a top priority for the administration.
“The number one priority of the new administration is to address issues around the provision of temporary and emergency accommodation,” a spokesperson said.
“We are going to implement a range of new, and speed up existing, solutions that will tackle this issue head on and we’ll be announcing news about these initiatives very shortly.”
“With regard to the number of empty properties, our unofficial interim figures indicate a reducing trend and we anticipate reporting a reduction when the next official return is submitted in October 2021,” they added.
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