A NEW strategy is being launched to tackle Bournemouth’s homelessness problem.

It comes after shock statistics revealed that the number of people bedding down on the town’s streets had trebled in two years.

The extent of the issue has seen the council resort to pumping out bagpipe music at the Travel Interchange in a bid to deter rough sleepers, while repeatedly promising “robust enforcement action”.

But the numbers on the streets have remained high.

And a new draft report issued by the authority, set to be discussed at the next Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel, outlines its latest approach.

Written by homelessness strategy manager Caroline Roundhill, the document blames reduced government funding, welfare reforms and the town’s high proportion of rental properties for the increase.

“Bournemouth homelessness data clearly indicates that loss of private sector tenancies is the reason for most homelessness approaches to the council, and this looks set to continue,” the report says.

It adds: "Over a third of Bournemouth’s housing market consists of rental properties, a very high proportion of the total market compared to other areas.

"This in part explains why just over 50% of homelessness cases are due to the termination of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).

"The rental market in Bournemouth continues to be very buoyant, meaning landlords often have a choice of households competing to be tenants."

It adds that 5,606 enquiries about homelessness were made to the council in 2015/16, up from 2,970 in the previous year – an increase of 89 per cent.

Applications for help made to the borough from homeless people reached 522 in 2015/16, up from 195 in 2012/13, representing a 167 per cent increase in three years.

And the number of rough sleepers on the streets is up 292% compared with 102% nationally.

The report identifies “key strategic actions” required to reverse these trends, including “diagnostic peer reviews” and to “strengthen the engagement approach”.

It also points to the importance of earlier intervention and developing a new portfolio of properties specifically targeted at helping the homeless.

It says it should be 'a priority for the council to provide proactive, timely and accessible advice to those at risk of losing a tenancy - by 'seeking to make information available at a range of appropriate contact points' and trying to 'raise awareness among professionals'.

And under the name Seascape Homes and Property Limited, the council will 'purchase a new homelessness portfolio, providing additional housing options for homeless households.' 

Housing portfolio holder Cllr Bob Lawton said: “In line with national trends, Bournemouth has seen an increase in homelessness.

“Reducing homelessness is a priority for the council and as such has produced a dedicated homelessness strategy.

“In response to the homelessness issues, pressures and the changing landscape the strategy outlines how the council will continue to tackle homelessness in Bournemouth with an enhanced focus on prevention, early intervention and advice.”

The draft strategy has been subject to a consultation with the council’s partner agencies from across the town and will be considered by councillors at July 12’s Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel. It is expected to go before cabinet in October.