MOST of Dorset’s 150 homeless people have been staying in Weymouth during the lockdown – although some have now moved on.

A small number were driven for an hour to get there – taking them away from places where they had support networks in place.

The Dorset Council tactic has been questioned by the chair of the resources scrutiny committee, Cllr Piers Brown who asked council leader Spencer Flower to justify the policy.

“Quite often people who are homeless suffer with other issues, be that mental health, or substance abuse… my understanding is that we have placed all of our homeless community into one hotel and that has caused, possibly, social issues in that environment and also in the local area to be exacerbated,” he said.

He asked for the policy to be re-considered should the need arise again.

“Is it right to move people from one community in Dorset, wherever that may be, to another locality when they have support networks in that location already?” he said at an online meeting.

Councillors were told that not all of those who were brought to Weymouth were in one hotel, but that two other hotels were also being used.

Cllr Flower said he had received calls from other councillors about the situation and was aware of their concerns. He said the council had found itself having to act on Government instructions to get people off the streets within a couple of days and that only the Weymouth hotels had offered accommodation.

Adult social care brief holder Cllr Laura Miller said that prior to the restrictions the council had 74 households in B&B accommodation and at the moment has 147 being accommodated.

She said that since the restrictions were eased some had moved into other temporary accommodation. All the people being helped did have a local connection, she said, and if they did not were ‘re-connected’ with their original area, often being driven there by council staff.

She said that of the 147 currently being accommodated by the council 72 were from the Weymouth and Portland area; 38 were from West Dorset, of which 34 were in Weymouth; 12 were from North Dorset, 9 of which were in Weymouth ; of the 17 from East Dorset 7 were in Weymouth and of the 7 from Purbeck 2 were in Weymouth.

“You can see those numbers speak for themselves. There is a severe shortage of temporary accommodation…there were only a small number of hotels who were prepared to offer support and those, primarily, were in Weymouth seafront area.”

She said that housing officers did try to avoid moving people away from areas where that had support. She said the situation was ‘not ideal, but the best we can do’ with the restrictions and limited amount of available accommodation. She added that Weymouth, because of its pre-existing homeless situation, also had a network of support already in place.

She said in an ideal situation people would be accommodated near their networks of support: “Under normal circumstances we do have to uproot people and that’s far from idea. It’s far from ideal at the moment…but the alternative is that they have nowhere to live. At the moment it is not ideal, but it’s the best we can do.”

The council will be bidding for Government funding for a long-term strategy to tackle the area's homeless situation.