A CONSORTIUM of locally-based providers has been selected to deliver the council’s services for the homeless – ensuring nobody has to spend a second night on the streets.
Chester District Housing Trust (CDHT) and Forum Housing Association will create a new customer-focused provision – concentrating on fit-for-purpose accommodation, improved customer services and supporting people to gain permanent and sustainable accommodation in the community.
Plans for the new service include a borough-wide mobile outreach service linked to a 24-hour, 365 days a year rough sleeper helpline, en-suite facilities to increase safety and dignity and significant improvements to the standard of accommodation, to be sited in Boughton, through £400,000 of council and supplier investment.
The council’s champion for homelessness, Cllr Jill Houlbrook, said: “When setting out our vision for the new service we were looking to put each individual at the heart of provision, increasing and tailoring support to help more people permanently back into the community.
“Cheshire has one of the largest populations of homeless and rough sleepers in the UK outside of London.
“We are a gateway between the rest of the country and Wales and have operated an open door system of care in the past but the new contract will now allow for different ways of working.”
The decision to award the consortium the five-year contract follows extensive consultation by the council with stakeholders and service users including police and health, including visits to similar facilities, and a competitive procurement process.
However, Boughton Labour Cllr David Robinson said he was dismayed by the total lack of consultation with residents on the siting of a new homeless centre.
‘The council boasts of stakeholder involvement with the police, probation and health services but has considered it not necessary to include either the local elected representative or local residents in the consultation,” he said.
“By failing to ask the residents on their views on this, I believe the council has neglected its duty of care.
“They have effectively imposed the council’s wishes through an independent provider.”
The new service will begin from November this year, with improvements to accommodation through building refurbishment achieved from April 2013.
In a joint statement, Forum Housing’s chief executive Chris Allen and CDHT’s group director, Dave Shaw, said: “Foundation Enterprises, North West, a new joint enterprise between Forum Housing Association and Chester and District Housing Trust, is delighted to be chosen as the preferred partner to deliver supporting people services across West Cheshire.
Plans are under way to transform Richmond Court, an empty supported housing facility in Boughton already owned by CDHT, into state-of-the-art, modern accommodation.
The vision for how the new service will benefit west Cheshire will be unveiled at the next City Community Forum Meeting, to be held at Boughton Hall Cricket Club, Filkins Lane, on Monday, July 9, 6.30pm for 7pm start.