Wolverhampton Homes has made a planning application on behalf of City of Wolverhampton Council to convert a vacant city centre building into an additional multi-agency centre to support vulnerable people and people with a history of rough sleeping.
It shows the city’s continued determination to tackle homelessness - an issue that will be brought firmly into focus by World Homeless Day on Sunday (October 10).
The rough sleepers count in Wolverhampton remains at an all-time low, having fallen by 88 per cent from 33 in April 2018 to four. Council-owned Bond House in Bond Street is now proposed as the location for the Single Persons Accommodation Project and, subject to planning approval, the vacant building will be converted into an Assessment Centre and 34 units of accommodation, including six accessible apartments.
The model comprises of three elements - a Single Persons Assessment Centre, emergency accommodation and settled accommodation units – and will provide bespoke, multi-agency support for the vulnerable people residing in the accommodation units, which would allow them to live safe and independent lives with the backing of arms-length support as and when required. The idea was sparked by lessons learnt from the success of supporting Wolverhampton’s homeless citizens through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative during the coronavirus outbreak, when partners in the multi-agency Homeless Operational Group pooled their resources at one location - a city centre hotel - to safeguard individuals from the streets.
That facility helped more than 100 people either facing the threat of homelessness or who were rough sleeping successfully move on from the city’s emergency shelter into long-term safe, suitable, and sustainable accommodation. The new proposal also includes security and concierge presence on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, something that was integral to the success of the emergency provision during ‘Everyone In’ and will ensure that the site is secure and residents are safe at all times.
It will also provide for other vulnerable groups, for example women experiencing homelessness or people who are made homeless and have secure employment. The rent and charges will be affordable and will allow people to be in employment, which is not always possible in traditional supported accommodation.
Funding will come from a mixture of Council spending and Government grants. The project has been developed following consultation with and best-practice learning from residents, volunteers, staff and partners.
Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, said: “This centre will further strengthen our homeless support in Wolverhampton and the planning application puts us a step closer to making it a reality.
“World Homeless Day on Sunday will highlight the global issue of homelessness and here in Wolverhampton we are helping rough sleepers rebuild their lives.
“We have a clear message that no-one needs to sleep out on our city streets.
“The work during the coronavirus crisis has built on the collaborative, partnership working approach to services for homeless individuals and rough sleepers in Wolverhampton.
“The positive relationships between partners at all levels have meant that residents receive the best service possible which is having real outcomes.
“There have been so many good news success stories with some residents, who were rough sleepers for a long time, engaging with services for the first time or after a long break.
“This initiative will continue to offer the best possible service to some of the most vulnerable people in our city. This is not merely a story about effective partnership working – it is a story about transforming lives for the better.”
Operational group partners include: Wolverhampton Homes, St George’s Hub, P3, Enterprise Homes Group Good Shepherd, Recovery Near You, RMC, Wolverhampton BID, Solace, Changing Lives, Police, A&E Security, Wolverhampton CCG, Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, food services (Good Shepherd, Outreach 4 Wolverhampton, Sant Ashram, Midland Langar, Helping Hands, Sedgley Street Sikh Gurdwara), Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, and Probation services.