'Right idea, wrong location' - elderly residents' fears over new city centre rough sleepers hub
PUBLISHED: 17:04 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:12 26 July 2019
A city homelessness charity has reassured residents who are concerned about an overnight rough sleepers hub being opened near them.
Charity St Martins Housing and the city council announced a new hostel to provide accommodation was set to open in the autumn earlier this month, at an undisclosed site in Norwich.
But after a planning application was published, which revealed the chosen premises to be an empty office on Recorder Road, residents in nearby retirement complexes shared concerns over the choice.
But the head of St Martins has allayed fears over the government funded Somewhere Safe to Stay scheme, and said access to support will cut down on anti-social behaviour.
Retirees at Cavendish Court, next door to the proposed site at No. 5, have signed a petition opposing the "worrying" scheme.
The petition of 31 signatures, given to Norwich City Council (NCC) on Wednesday, July 24, said: "We are concerned about begging, disturbances and urinating.
"We have already had problems with homeless people coming into our development and using drugs.
"Recorder Road is not a suitable place for this project. There are four retirement complexes, housing many vulnerable people.
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"This is a worrying concern."
Resident Lynn Franks, 75, said: "It's the right idea but it's in the wrong location."
While her husband Martin Franks, 81, added: "We've got people in their nineties. Are they going to get accosted?"
Dr Jan Sheldon, St Martins chief executive, said the charity was committed to holding regular meetings to address concerns, including in an evening ahead of the project launch, and said she was available for one-on-ones with neighbours with specific worries.
Dr Sheldon said: "If people who are sleeping rough have a place to go and be supported by specialist staff, anti-social behaviour - as identified by those with concerns - is likely to reduce considerably.
"A service which supports rough sleepers in this way needs to be located centrally and accessible to those who need it.
"The site on Recorder Road is a good location and has the space and facilities we need."
An NCC spokesperson said: "We are supportive of St Martins' plans to deliver a Somewhere Safe to Stay hub, as this will provide much-needed accommodation and support to rough sleepers and help them to find somewhere to live."