Free Wi-Fi is key to tackling Northampton's homelessness problems, says council

The recommendations to combat homelessness in Northampton were put to the borough council cabinet last week.
The recommendations to combat homelessness in Northampton were put to the borough council cabinet last week.

All temporary and overnight accommodation for homeless people in Northampton should be fitted with free Wi-Fi, a councillor has recommended.

Access to the internet would help disadvantaged people find jobs, apply for benefits and stay connected with loved ones, says the chair of a homelessness scrutiny committee.

It comes as part of a set of recommendations put to Northampton Borough Council's full cabinet last week calling for a complete review into homelessness in the town.

Councillor Zoe Smith said: "Ensuring we have Wi-Fi in all our accommodation, like the night shelter and B&Bs, is one of the cheapest and easiest things the borough council could accomplish to start tackling homelessness in our town.

"Many disadvantaged people already have phones but they might not have the money to afford data. Everything is online these days and not having access to jobs and support websites is a problem.

"I'm pleased with the recommendations that have been put forward and I look forward to seeing how the borough council will put them into practice."

The committee is also calling on the council to create a five-year "homelessness strategy" to cut the number of households that become homeless and the number of homeless families living in temporary accommodation.

Recommendations include publishing leaflets to help direct homeless people to support services and developing personalised development plans for each of Northampton's rough sleepers to get them off the streets and into permanent housing.

Robin Burgess, CEO of the Northampton Hope Centre, a rough sleeping support charity, said: "I think free Wi-Fi is a good idea but it wouldn't be something that could help rough sleepers on the street.

"There are different kinds of homelessness, from being absolutely destitute on the street to families who have been kicked out of their houses because rent has gone up, or just simply sofa-surfing young adults. They all need different kinds of help.

"Free Wi-Fi would help combat the larger issue of homelessness for those families living in temporary accommodation and young people without a fixed address. It would not really help the people on the streets."

The report points to breakdowns in relationships, hiking rents by landlords and family or friends being unable or no longer willing to accommodate the person.