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Pandemic 'can guide way to reducing homelessness', West Norfolk Council panel told

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Lessons in tackling anti-social behaviour can be learnt from the radical response to eliminating homelessness in the pandemic, a council official has said.

At a Tuesday briefing session of West Norfolk council’s environment and community panel, officer Mark Whitmore explained how the authority had been handling anti-social behaviour in recent years.

He gave a case study of a street drinker who committed 99 drunk and disorderly offences in 2017 alone.

King's Court, Borough Council of West Norfolk.. (49703902)
King's Court, Borough Council of West Norfolk.. (49703902)

The person had been homeless for some 15 years and was said to be “very aggressive, abusive and intimidating when drunk”.

Two criminal anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) and two criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) were issued, leading to a night in custody and a small fine.

This was followed by an injunction but it was repeatedly breached by the serial drinker, who was sentenced to six months in prison.

“But it didn’t change the behaviour,” said Mr Whitmore.

“We were going round in a loop with this person, unfortunately, being dealt with through the criminal and civil process.”

“In 2020, Covid struck and we had an ‘all-in’ process for homelessness and that actually, if there could ever be an upside to a global pandemic – which perhaps you can’t really say there is – the ‘all-in’ for homelessness did give us an opportunity to reset this particular issue and the individual.”

The person in the case study was provided with a tenancy they were “really happy with”, along with a support package.

Their anti-social behaviour was reduced and they re-established contact with their elderly parents, who they now see regularly.

Conservative councillor Ian Devereux asked: “Are there some indications of actions we can follow through [with] in the future?”

Mr Whitmore said: “It [the pandemic] has forced everybody to look at how we work and what we do, and how we do it.

“There’s an awful lot we’ve learnt from those processes that I think, post-pandemic, we should reflect on, and see whether or not there is an ability to do things differently on a permanent basis.”

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