The numbers of people using a Northampton homeless centre every day has increased by 50 per cent in just two years, a manager there has claimed.
Catherine Maryan, of the Hope Centre, said tough three-month benefit sanctions on those who leave a job ‘voluntarily’ was forcing more people into temporary accommodation and, in some cases, on to the streets.
A total of 125 people now attend the Campbell Street centre for a cheap meal, a change of clothes and a shower daily, compared to 85 in 2012.
Although she said part of the increase in clients was due to its move from the dilapidated Maple House to the bright new Oasis House two years ago, the core number of homeless people in Northampton had also gone up.
She said: “I understand that the Job Centre needs to clamp down on those people who are trying to get hold of benefits fraudulently.
“But a three-month sanction on those who miss appointments is very tough. I challenge anyone with a good salary to go three months without pay.
“We are seeing people first turn to debt, to crime and homelessness within those three months.”
While homelessness figures from Northampton Borough Council only count nine people as sleeping rough in the town, Ms Maryan said the centre was aware of at least 40.
Another contributing factor, she said, was when people on benefits take part time work, only to have that employment terminated soon after. Many are experiencing a large delay in getting the benefit re-instated, which can prove the tipping factor in turning people to homelessness.
But with the increase in service users, Ms Maryan said the Hope Centre’s resources were being challenged. She said: “We have to provide more food and we have to provide more clothing.
“We run a shower service here so there are costs for the water, the laundry and drying.
“Our costs have doubled in the last two years.”
The Hope Centre is helped by numerous donations such as toiletries and clothing. The centre is currently in desperate need of male underwear in good condition.