Phil Holmes, director of adult social care, said the ‘Everyone In’ policy the council and St Leger Homes adopted back in March 2020 housed a number of rough sleepers when the pandemic first broke out.
He said this brought ‘extra impetus’ to drill down into wider issues of why people end up on the street and discovered secondary causes and problems to which they could start to address.
Mr Holmes said ‘proactive’ work by St Leger had reduced the number of people ending up in difficult situations and said the picture was ‘much more worrying’ around three to four months ago.
The social care boss said it was a ‘myth’ that homeless and rough sleepers were hard to engage with and said the vast majority were accessing help.
Mr Holmes said: “We’ve known in Doncaster since we did some work in 2019 that too many people were presenting as homeless quite late and that we had not done enough preventively in communities to help stop them getting to that point.
“The everybody in policy that we introduced last year has been really helpful by enabling us to have a zero tolerance grip on street sleepers and homelessness.
“What it’s also done is flush out issues that would’ve been hidden. When we look at the temporary living population which includes hotel and B&B stays, it turns out we may not have had contact with some of the people we were coming across.
“It’s been a positive policy initiative but it’s left us with a legacy that’s going to take some time to work through and when we engage with other South Yorkshire councils, they also noted an unknown need that presented itself to them.
“The limiting factor isn’t just housing, it’s also about wrap-around support for people. If we see this as just a housing problem, we won’t get out of it.”