Almost 3,000 young people in Lancashire asked their council for homelessness help last year - and a charity has warned this number could rise as the coronavirus pandemic continues to engulf the red rose county.

Across Lancashire, at least 2,808 16-to-24-year-olds approached their council for help in 2018/19 because they were either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

That’s according to homeless charity Centrepoint’s annual Youth Homelessness Databank report, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to every council in England.

In Lancashire, all local authorities responded apart from Lancaster City Council - so the true number of young people going to their council for help is likely even higher than the numbers presented.

Blackburn had the largest number of approaches with 616, with just under half (290) having a 'positive outcome' - which is where homelessness was either prevented or alternative accommodation was found.

In Preston, there was 387 approaches over the issue, with less than three in 10 cases having a positive outcome (114).

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic gripping Lancashire, the UK, and the entire world, Centrepoint is warning there will be more pressure on councils as demand for services increases, and financial resources are further stretched to cope with the crisis.

"The government is repeatedly telling everyone to stay at home – but that is simply not possible for some of the country’s most vulnerable young people," chief executive Seyi Obakin told LancsLive.

"What happens when a young person has nowhere else to go is crucial. This research shows how some local authorities were already struggling to find the resources to help those young people approaching them because they were facing homelessness.

"In the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, we must not get into a situation where housing offices are closing their doors and no alternative provision is in place to help those needing their support."

LancsLive has therefore approached every council across Lancashire to see how they are tackling youth homelessness in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

This is what they had to say:

Burnley

Burnley Borough Council has said its homeless team is 'fully operational' despite the Covid-19 threat, working working with Lancashire Constabulary to support those sleeping rough.

They said: "Burnley Council's homeless team is fully operational and the usual referral channels are open for anyone homeless who present themselves to us for advice and support.

"The team is working closely with Lancashire Police and our rough sleeping navigator from the borough's Gateway project to assist and support anyone rough sleeping on the streets."

Blackburn

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has extended its Emergency Winter Homeless Provision indefinitely, which provides a bed, shower and food to anyone that needs it in the borough.

The service, provided through the Salvation Army in Blackburn, includes six self-contained rooms set aside for those who need to self-isolate.

A council spokesperson told LancsLive: "While we are legally required to provide this only during extended inclement weather from November to March, in Blackburn with Darwen we provide it every day during this period.

"This has helped us to quickly put in place arrangements to house rough sleepers during the current coronavirus crisis, and these will continue for the foreseeable future.

"As the police are challenging the rough sleepers they meet, demand for this provision has significantly increased. To increase capacity we will use Crown Commercial Services who are supporting placements nationally. This has not been required so far."

Hospital discharge

A new rapid discharge arrangement has been put in place to help the hospital clear beds quickly, specifically for people with no fixed address leaving hospital. We have agreed accommodation for 30 individuals at an East Lancashire hotel, who are kept in isolation in en-suite rooms.

"These include people who would normally go to a hostel/communal accommodation, which would put them at a higher risk of coming into contact with someone with Covid19 symptoms," a council spokesperson explained.

"We are also working with other hotels in Pennine Lancashire. Arrangements were swiftly put in place and this service was operational by Friday, March 27."

Support

The council also confirmed it is supporting the people housed in the Salvation Army and in the hotel with drug treatment and mental health services.

A spokesperson said: "We are also providing dedicated staff to work at the hospital seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm, to help support the rapid placements for anyone who is homeless or at risk of being homeless from the hospital, or generally across Pennine Lancashire.

"We can usually accommodate them in under two hours from the time they present to us. This service is also available 24 hours a day, through an out-of-hours system."

Members of the public wearing masks queue to enter shops as the UK continues in lockdown

Blackpool

Blackpool Council has said it is 'working hard to ensure that all homeless people are accommodated in line with government guidance'.

Accommodation is predominantly being provided in B&Bs with en-suite facilities and kettles so that people can self-isolate and follow government guidance.

A spokeswoman told LancsLive: "We also have a range of supported accommodation and dispersed accommodation.

"Blackpool has a formal Homeless Partnership which consists of a wide range of statutory and third sector partners working together to help the homeless.

"The partners are in constant communication and are co-ordinating efforts to review and increase the emergency provision, and food supply. Emergency weekend food parcels are being delivered to people."

The council has also launched ‘Corona Kindness’ community hubs which have been set up to help vulnerable groups and those that are struggling with no support network. The hubs will be co-ordinating weekly food parcels, LancsLive can confirm.

An outreach service to encourage those that are rough sleeping to get in touch is also still being run.

Preston

In Preston, the council told LancsLive it is doing 'all it can' to support vulnerable people during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader at Preston City Council, said: "During these unprecedented times we are working very hard, along with our partners, doing all we can to support all the vulnerable people of Preston with a number of support needs, including accommodation."

South Ribble

Councillor Bill Evans, Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration and City Deal at South Ribble Borough Council

Further housing for vulnerable people across South Ribble has been announced this week, LancsLive can confirm.

And while numbers remain unknown for now, South Ribble Borough Council added that they are staying in regular contact with Key Unlocking Futures, a housing support and assistance service for 16 to 25 year olds.

Councillor Bill Evans, Cabinet Member for Planning, Regeneration and City Deal at South Ribble Borough Council, told LancsLive: "One of the council’s biggest concerns, at this moment of crisis and hardship, is that people threatened with homelessness have a place to stay.

"The council already has an existing inventory of housing options for the homeless – but I am pleased to confirm that this week, we have procured additional stock to ensure there is enough to meet everyone’s needs.

"In cases where we know that an individual is living with particular vulnerabilities, we work with partner agencies to ensure that proper support is in place.

"We continue to work proactively to prevent and reduce cases of homelessness in South Ribble: we do this through mediation with landlords and family members, and by making people aware of their rights, so that tenancies are not compromised.

"In addition, the council keeps in regular contact with Key Unlocking Futures, who provide housing support and assistance for those aged 16-25."

Wyre

Councillor Roger Berry, cabinet member with responsibility for neighbourhood services at Wyre Council

LancsLive did not get a response from Wyre Borough Council in regards to young people at risk of homelessness.

But the Local Democracy Reporting Scheme has revealed how a Fleetwood housing project which supports people in Wyre who are homeless has had a vital £25,000 a year grant renewed for the next two years.

George William House, on Broomfield Road, was given the financial support by Wyre Council, in support of the bulk of funding the amenity receives from Lancashire County Council.

However, since 2017 County Hall has reduced its funding of the project by £25,000 a year and without the support from Wyre, the project would not be able to afford the case worker which is essential to its work.

The housing scheme provides a key service in the borough by housing those who are homeless or those who are threatened with homelessness, including families.

Over the past two years there have been 31 families placed in George Williams House with 22 families moving on to sustain secure tenancies.

Many of them have complex needs and include those struggling with issues including debt, domestic violence and mental health problems. Owned by the Regenda Group, the building is currently leased to The Salvation Army, which provides the service and has been operating there since 2004.

The funding was approved by Coun Roger Berry, Wyre’s neighbourhood services and community safety portfolio holder, and will be allocated from the council’s Flexible Homelessness Support Grant.

The council will retain the use of the two of the units in the building as interim accommodation for those in need of a short-term housing.

Hyndburn

A Hyndburn Borough Council spokeswoman said: Hyndburn BC continues to provide a frontline housing advice and homelessness service to all households including young people primarily delivered through online and telephone contact.

"The Breathing Space Lancashire website provides details of the housing advice services available across East Lancashire for young people to access this includes an online 'live chat' facility at https://www.breathingspacelancs.org.uk."

YNOT Aspire is the local service in Hyndburn that provide advice, guidance and assistance to young people at risk of homelessness.

Supported accommodation for young people is still open and operating in accordance with current Covid-19 guidelines and guidance.

LancsLive also approached Chorley, Wyre, Fylde, Pendle, Rossendale, Ribble Valley, and West Lancashire councils for comment but did not get a response.

Statistics - in full

Blackburn with Darwen: 616 approaches, 290 'positive outcomes'

Blackpool: 373 approaches, 139 'positive outcomes'

Burnley: 206 approaches, 94 'positive outcomes'

Chorley: 101 approaches, 99 'positive outcomes'

Fylde: 59 approaches, 19 'positive outcomes'

Hyndburn: 170 approaches, 44 'positive outcomes'

Lancaster: no data provided

Pendle: 331 approaches, 61 'positive outcomes'

Preston: 387 approaches, 114 'positive outcomes'

Ribble Valley: 12 approaches, 8 'positive outcomes'

Rossendale: 129 approaches, 79 'positive outcomes'

South Ribble: 248 approaches, 73 'positive outcomes'

West Lancashire: 43 approaches, 13 'positive outcomes'

Wyre: 133 approaches, 94 'positive outcomes'

A person wearing a protective face masks walk past a direction sign to COVID-19 coronavirus isolation pods

Government response

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2019 places an obligation on all councils to provide support to prevent and relieve homelessness, such as providing information and advice or developing a personalised housing plan.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told the Reach plc Data Unit: "Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live and following the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, more people are able to access the support they need.

"However, there is much more to do.

"We are providing £492m to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness this year to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place and ensuring people are able to rebuild their lives with a roof over their head.

"We are also working intensively with councils and the sector to get everyone who is sleeping rough off the streets and into appropriate accommodation – backed by £1.6 billion of additional funding to respond to pressures during the Covid-19 emergency."