Flintshire Council is doing everything in its power to help get homeless people off the street, according to senior councillors.
It comes despite criticism from some community leaders that the support provided for rough sleepers in the county is not enough.
Concerns have been raised about the growing number of individuals without a roof over their head in several areas, including Holywell, Shotton and Connah’s Quay, where a small homeless camp has been set up in front of the town’s library.
Last month, members of Holywell Town Council voiced fears someone could die on the streets unless the situation is addressed and accused the local authority of failing rough sleepers.
However, councillors sitting on Flintshire’s ruling Labour cabinet have now defended their position and spoken in praise of the assistance provided by council staff.
They also revealed there were occasions when homeless people refused the help on offer and said they could not force them to move into shelters.
Speaking at a meeting held in Mold yesterday, Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for planning and public protection, said: “I think we’re all concerned about the increase in the amount of rough sleeping and people living on the streets.
“Many of us as councillors have engaged with people on our streets to try to get them to open up to us and explain what the difficulties are.
“Certainly, housing officers have gone out of their way to try and help in these circumstances.
“There are people who welcome the help and take advantage of it, but I think we have to recognise that for whatever reason there are others who won’t, and we can’t do much about that.
“It probably upsets us as councillors and council officers when there’s a suggestion that we’re not doing enough because I’m certain of the fact that officers and members are doing our level best to help in these very tragic situations.”
There is currently said to be a total of around eight people sleeping rough in Flintshire.
The authority has activated its severe weather emergency protocol on three occasions so far this winter because of temperatures dropping to near zero, including last night.
Up until recently the council was able to house homeless people in a night shelter during icy conditions, but the facility was closed at short notice.
They are now being accommodated at a building in Shotton on a temporary basis with a view to making the arrangement permanent early next year.
Chief executive Colin Everett said: “The permanent shelter was closed by a landlord and it wasn’t our decision, so we were left at fairly short notice without provision.
“We’ve moved quickly and Neal (Cockerton – chief housing officer) has had our full support to use the facility in question.
“We are applying for permission to regularise that, but of course we do have to use it in emergency weather in between.
“We have these sensitive discussions, including earlier today with community leaders about how much we can enforce or compel people to use it.
“Well we can’t, but we do reach out to all the known rough sleepers to encourage them.”
Officers said weather forecasts were monitored closely during the winter with outreach workers, police and volunteers going out to speak to homeless people to make them aware of the accommodation on offer.
They added they were also happy to provide transport to the shelter for anyone who requires it.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).