Kerry Ciotti said that a number of islanders have found themselves homeless over the past year. Citizens Advice has averaged more than a call a week this year from those without, or soon to be without, a suitable home.
‘We only see a snapshot of people and the real numbers are far greater,’ said Mrs Ciotti, who said that there had been 54 contacts made in the year to date.
She said that rent increases, coupled with a lack of availability of affordable housing, is largely to blame for many finding themselves without housing.
‘I don’t think anyone would disagree we’re at crisis point now. With Covid so many more people came back to the island as it was a better place to live, now more people are back, and the wages aren’t going up.’
Of those seeking advice relating to homelessness, 17% of people were already sofa-surfing or staying with friends or family when they approached Citizens Advice.
Homelessness can be anything from sofa-surfing or sleeping rough to living in temporary accommodation.
Sarnia Housing is one of two emergency accommodation services available in the island, as well at St Julian’s, and offers 14 one-bedroom flats and bedsits to families without a place to live.
‘We’ve had people phoning up in tears, which we’ve never had before,’ said accommodation manager Jane Le Conte.
‘There definitely isn’t enough emergency accommodation here. The extent of people out there who are sofa-surfing I can’t say – there are a lot more people in impermanent housing than we think. You don’t see people sleeping on the streets here, so it is quite hidden and hard to quantify.'
The service has seen a significant increase in enquiries since the start of the pandemic, which she said was often due to people losing income over lockdowns.
Enquiries have fallen in the last two months as more social housing has become available, as it is a requirement that prospective tenants for Sarnia Housing have an active application for social housing. At the end of 2020 there were some 300 people on the waiting list for social housing.
Rents leapt by some 15% year-on-year at mid-2021 and the States figure for the mixed-adjusted average local market price is £505,000.
‘We get women phoning up who are pregnant who have been told by their landlord that they can’t have a child there, people experiencing relationship breakdowns and women in refuge escaping abusive relationships. It’s a complex situation,’ Mrs Le Conte said.