HOUSING chiefs in the New Forest have opened a new facility that aims to keep homeless people off the streets.

A four-bed hostel owned by the district council has been refurbished and converted into a six-room facility with the help of government money.

Described as supported accommodation, the new centre is located in Lymington.

Richard Knott, the council's housing service manager, said the authority aimed to work with rough sleepers and provide them with a support structure which would, over time, help them secure long-term housing.

He added: “I am confident that every known rough sleeper in the district has access to welfare support and an offer of accommodation.

"In one recent case we worked with a rough sleeper for three years and each time they did not want to engage and we had to respect that. But we kept on checking and talking, and now they are in safe, clean accommodation."

“The people we help are individuals with varying needs and we try to match them with a property and location that is right for them."

Mr Knott said the council supported people threatened with homelessness and tried to help them either remain where they were or move to alternative accommodation.

He added: “Homelessness can happen to any one of us. We work with almost 2,000 households a year, ranging from single people to large families.

“Staff invest a lot of themselves emotionally in some very difficult cases. Their work is hugely important, not only preventing homelessness but in some cases it has been the difference between life and death.”

Cllr Jill Cleary, portfolio holder for housing, said the council was striving to reduce the amount of rough sleeping in the area.

“Since 2018 our housing work has been strengthened and we have built up our teams who work together in a co-ordinated way to provide more than just accommodation," she said.

"This ‘accommodation pathway’ includes additional support to keep people with a home - things like mental health support and money management.

"This gives people the chance to take the next step such as private sector housing or different social housing.”