A Chester homeless hostel criticised as being ‘too big’ and ‘unmanageable’ looks set to be replaced with smaller units of accommodation.
Richmond Court is the main hub for homelessness services with its 36 beds and 10 emergency ‘safe seats’ but is perceived by many as a magnet for trouble.
Latest thinking is that smaller properties are preferable for service users and communities.
And a report before Thursday’s (June 22) people overview and scrutiny committee by director of commissioning Alistair Jeffs recommends ‘a greater range of accommodation located across the borough catering for the varying needs of individuals and their local areas’.
CWaC’s four housing-related and homelessness contracts – costing £2.6m – are due to finish at the end of March 2018. The local authority intends to replace them with a ‘new holistic service’ delivered by a single provider, saving £250,000 a year.
The service will reflect the outcome of a 12-week consultation which identified the following priorities:
■ Smaller rather than larger units of accommodation
■ Extra emergency bed provision
■ Daytime services
The proposed new model will have a greater focus on prevention including mediation, advice and information services, intervention services to provide support to people in their home and increased temporary accommodation.
At the moment the council does not commission any daytime activities, which often leaves homeless individuals without meaningful activities or support during the daytime. Provision of daytime support is seen as a priority.
An important aspect of the vision is the location of the new homeless support service and provision of direct emergency beds.
And report author Mr Jeffs accepts: “This is a sensitive issue for both service users and the local communities.”
Among the potential new sites for supported accommodation listed in the appendix are: Milestones, Chester; Caretakers House, Wyvern House, Winsford ; Crispin House, Chester; The Lymes, Northwich; McGarva Way, Ellesmere Port and other council properties including Greyhound Stadium in Ellesmere Port and Woodford Lodge in Winsford.
The report says nationally and locally the demand for homelessness services continues to increase. It notes that people continue to be affected by changes to the benefits system.
Mr Jeffs comments: “All these reforms are having an impact on the housing options available to households and levels of homelessness nationally and within the borough.
"This is a result of households, particularly vulnerable households, finding it more difficult to find an affordable housing option, and, if they are able to find permanent accommodation, their ability to sustain the tenancy and not fall into rent arrears.”