Posted: Mon 2nd Mar 2020

Homeless people in to be supported seven days a week as new night shelter opens

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Mar 2nd, 2020

Homeless people in Flintshire will be supported seven days a week following the opening of a new night shelter, a local authority has pledged.

The county was left without emergency bed spaces for rough sleepers after a pilot scheme based in Holywell was withdrawn by a housing association at short notice in September.

Since then, officers from Flintshire Council have been working to establish a new facility at a former day centre in Queensferry.

Until now the Glanrafon Centre, which is opposite Deeside Leisure Centre, has only been opened when the authority’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) has been implemented.

However, from today it will be up and running permanently following the approval of planning permission.

Speaking at a recent meeting, Labour leader Ian Roberts said the council had been put in a difficult position, but would now be able to provide a number of support services under one roof.

He said: “Wherever you go the number of people on the streets is a matter of grave concern.

“As a local authority, it’s been very challenging because as the planning authority we need to ensure that we ourselves are operating within the law.

“If we had operated this shelter without planning permission on a daily basis then developers would have been able to come to us to say we don’t take much notice of our own planning restrictions.

“Fortunately, now we move to a position where the shelter has planning permission and things like sprinklers have been installed so we have our own shelter which is fully operational.

“There is a capacity there of twelve and at the moment there are currently seven people who are accessing this accommodation on a fairly regular basis.”

A debate on homelessness was held during Thursday’s full council meeting after an urgent notice of motion was put forward by members of the Flintshire Independents.

Group leader Bernie Attridge called for a review of the SWEP guidelines as he said they were not activated during Storm Ciara last month as temperatures had not dropped below zero degrees celsius.

The former cabinet member for housing claimed it had led to people being left on the streets in his hometown of Connah’s Quay.

While he welcomed the opening of the new facility, he asked for safeguards to be put in place in case the service is withdrawn in future.

He said: “The reason we need a review of the SWEP protocol is that none of us want to see anyone sleeping rough on the streets of Flintshire.

“I know SWEP has been activated on a number of occasions, but we still had nights where the temperatures were three degrees, four degrees or five degrees.

“With the wind factor it could be a lot colder than that but we only activate SWEP on zero degrees.

“The reason I’m asking for the protocol to be urgently reviewed is just in case what happened in Holywell happens in Queensferry that the provider pulls out at short notice leaving us with no provision.”

In response, the authority’s chief executive said it would no longer need to rely on SWEP to provide accommodation because of the new shelter.

Colin Everett added officers had also used their discretion during recent storms to provide beds for the homeless.

He said: “I understand the intention and that there’s always a risk that whatever we provide could be discontinued and therefore we could fall back on SWEP.

“The difference here is that this is our property that we’re fitting out.

“The commitment I would give members is that if we were ever in the unfortunate position of having a provider withdraw, we would still have a well-served facility and we would at least provide ourselves a temporary officer to support the specialist cover until we have a new partner.

“On the two consecutive weekends of severe storms we used our discretion because SWEP strictly speaking doesn’t use common sense on extreme weather like wind and rain.”

Work has been ongoing for the last few months to convert the Glanrafon Centre by creating sleeping space, toilets and bathing facilities.

A senior officer previously said it would be used to provide drug and alcohol services, medical support and housing assistance.

The opening of the shelter was welcomed by Shotton councillor Sean Bibby, who expressed his sadness at the increase in homelessness in the area.

He said: “As someone who has lived in Deeside all my life, I found it personally distressing that for the first time ever I was seeing people on the streets of Shotton and Connah’s Quay sleeping rough in tragic circumstances.

“There are individuals that I’ve grown up with and I know the background here.

“Some of the things that have gone on in some of these people’s lives have been horrifying.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the officers who have worked incredibly hard to get this off the ground.”

At the end of the debate, Cllr Attridge withdrew his motion in light of the assurances provided.

The new shelter is expected to open from 7pm to 11am each day and will be staffed by a full time co-ordinator, as well as five part time workers.

 

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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