£2.6 million has been spent on emergency accommodation by councils in North Northamptonshire during the past 12 months as the area battles a housing and homelessness crisis.
787 households across Wellingborough, Corby, Kettering and East Northants arrived at the doors of their local authority in the past year after being made homeless.
A combination of rising private rents, stagnant wages, welfare reform, low levels of available social housing and lack of local authority building programmes, has led to a situation which long-standing Wellingborough councillor Andrew Scarborough has called ‘the worst housing crisis since World War Two.’
Families are being temporarily housed in hotels, with some even placed as far away as Watford and unauthorised tented homeless camps are becoming a feature of local woodlands.
Some of the councils are now looking at quickly buying up houses from the private market to use for people who suddenly become homeless.
And Corby Council is planning to convert garages to provide affordable accommodation.
Wellingborough and Kettering councils are the worst affected by the crisis, both spending more than £1.1 million in the past 12 months on emergency accommodation.
Leader of Wellingborough Council Martin Griffiths said it is a national crisis and hopes more funds will come from central government to help borough and district councils deal with the issue.
He said: “This is our biggest challenge but we are up to it.
“At Wellingborough we have had to switch capital funds into our reserve budget and are looking to buy some property in the area.
“We had the potential to buy some property that would have been suitable but unfortunately that has fallen through.
“We have now agreed to undertake a joint procurement project with East Northants Council to help with this issue.
“We will look at outsourcing the basic functions so that we can focus on a more strategic approach.
“We have built affordable homes over the past few years but we still need to deliver and build more.
“The issue is that we need homes quickly and so are looking into some purchases.”
East Northamptonshire contracts out its homeless service to Homes Direct.
It spent just over £200,000 last year on the service which manages the temporary accommodation for the area.
There is a growing homelessness and rough sleeper situation in Rushden, with the town council joining forces with East Northamptonshire Council in January to set up the Rushden Community Support programme.
The numbers of people being made homeless in the area has been growing year on year but there has been a sharp increase across all four councils in the past 12 months.
It is the towns rather than the rural villages that are seeing homeless numbers soar.
Kettering councillor Mick Scrimshaw and his fellow Labour colleagues have been putting forward an alternative budget for the past few years calling on the Tory-run Kettering Council to undertake a council homes building project.
He said: “This is a huge crisis but it will not change until there is the political will to do so.
“At Kettering the opposition have proposed that the council borrow against the housing revenue account to build new much needed local authority homes.
“There is a five-month backlog in Kettering with some homeless households being placed out of the borough for housing, even as far as Watford.
“Month on month the numbers are rising and there is a desperate need for more social housing.”
The voluntary and charitable sectors are taking on the homeless challenge with a growing number of organisations and volunteers helping across the North Northamptonshire towns.
Corby Nightlight, the Corinthian Church Homeless Mission and a scheme at West Glebe Park help people in Corby.
Kettering’s Accommodation Concern offers free advice to those who fear they may become homeless and there is also a new shelter called Safe Until Daylight based at the Eden Centre in Montagu Street.
In Rushden there is the Sanctuary night shelter as well as a shelter at the Rushden Full Gospel Church.
The Wellingborough Homeless Forum was launched at the start of this year and support is also given by the Daylight Centre Fellowship and the Mayday Trust.