MEETING legal obligations to local homeless people has been ‘a real challenge’ for Dorset Council.

Housing brief holder Graham Carr-Jones says that even before the pandemic the council was having to look after more than 70 households that were homeless.

He told a meeting of the cabinet: “Getting families out of temporary bed and breakfast accommodation and getting them into settled accommodation has been a real challenge.”

He said that many exceeded the maximum six-week stay in B&B because of the lack of alternative options.

The brief holder said many private landlords did not want to take homeless people since the introduction of universal credit and the end of direct payments.

He said many of private landlords were unable to let to homeless people from the council list because their mortgage and insurance providers made it difficult for them to do so.

Councillor Carr-Jones said that although the council had a small number of homes it owned around the county and had persuaded some landlords to join its lettings scheme the demand constantly out-stripped supply and seemed likely to continue to do so.

“We have about 80 properties on our books but it’s not just enough,” he said.

He said the council did not have a choice over housing homeless people - it has a legal duty to do so.

“What we do have a choice in is to take back some control and be masters of our own destiny - and any project to bring forward a hostel in any part of Dorset will be done in consultation with our community.

“Things won’t get better until we invest in our people and property and things could get a whole lot tougher so we need to take bold and decisive pro-active action to house our homeless.”

He said that although it was hoped much of the cost would be met by Government grants there would also be additional cost to local council taxpayers.

“It is not just about returns on our investments, it’s more than that, this is also about the right thing to do – about giving people somewhere decent to stay, somewhere to cook their own meals. It’s about health and wellbeing.”