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News Archive > General > Homeless hub hopes on hold

Homeless hub hopes on hold

By Warren Wilkins 19th September 2018

Homeless hub hopes on hold

MAJOR plans to launch a homeless hub in Newquay in time for winter have been dashed after concerns were raised about opening the facility in a residential area.

Newquay Town Council’s Economic Development and General Purposes Committee (EDGP) decided to put on hold a proposal to refurbish the Newquay Centre in St Michael’s Road into a ‘fit for purpose’ facility for the homeless amid fears members were due to vote before seeking the views of the community first.

The authority is proposing to employ two support workers to offer advice and signposting to people using the hub, as well as shower, laundry, cooking and meeting facilities at least five days a week to help homeless people living on the streets in Newquay. The town’s soup kitchens would also potentially operate from the facility, though there are no plans to use the premises as a night shelter.

But residents, business owners and councillors have voiced concerns that establishing a hub in a central location in Newquay would attract

further homeless people to the town, which could exacerbate problems of people begging, being abusive as well as open drug dealing and drug taking.

Concerns have also been highlighted the hub could damage tourism being located so close to Mount Wise car park as many holidaymakers park there to visit the resort.

Residents, business owners and councillors have additionally called for the public consultation to be held due to the amount of taxpayers’ money that would be needed to set up and operate the homeless hub.

There would be capital costs for building works to enable the Newquay Centre to
provide suitable facilities including laundry, showers, storage and one-to-one
confidential spaces. 

There would additionally be running costs of around £15,000 a year to operate from the building, which would include rent, insurance, operating costs, as well as £35,000 per year staffing costs.

A grant application has been submitted to the Lottery Fund towards the staffing costs. Concerns have also been raised the scheme would result in double taxation for the Newquay taxpayer as the town council is undertaking the project despite Cornwall Council being responsible for housing and social care.

Jon Goodman, chairman of the Central Ward Residents’ Association, spoke at the EDGP Committee meeting last Thursday on behalf of 20 residents who have raised concerns. The committee unanimously agreed to delay making a recommendation to full council on the homeless hub and instead stage a full public consultation, which is to be completed before its next meeting on November 11.

Mr Goodman said: “I spoke on behalf of over 20 residents that contacted me who were not happy that they did not know of it, nor that anybody was consulted within town. Most felt a public consultation should have happened.

“Residents were concerned about the location and how much it will cost. This is a great result so the public can be informed on the plans more.”

Cllr Louis Gardner added: “In the end, the detailed spending wasn’t proposed
because of concerns raised by residents and there was no vote. I put forward a proposal that we go to full public consultation. The entire committee supported my
proposal. We are hoping to give all the detail to the public over the next couple of weeks.

“Politically there are varying views on how to deal with the homeless. There are people concerned the homeless hub will attract more homeless people to Newquay. It should be about dealing with the ones who are here. It has annoyed residents and
councillors. Some residents are concerned about setting it up in a residential area.

“The hub would be funded by the town council – Cornwall Council would not put in any money despite have the housing and social care remit. Certain councillors believe this would be double taxation. I can’t divulge the set up costs as they are subject to commercial sensitivity at the moment but the annual costs would be £50,000.

"That is running costs, utilities, etc, and two part-time posts. This money would only be an underwrite from the council as many other sources of funding could be accessed and applied for.”

Local business owner Kevin Blamey added: “It sounds like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“I don’t think it’s fair pushing it on local residents,  everyone is fed up with it after the massive influx this year. Fair enough they need help but not at the expense of locals. If it went to a vote with locals I would say 80% to 90% would be against it.

“It is too close to people’s houses, schools and businesses. They are already harassing children in town.

“My wife got verbally abused and flashed at by the homeless camping at the church there in the summer and was too scared to walk that way again, so I feel strongly enough about it. She called 101 but all she got told is that they had permission by the church to be there.
Nobody will want the downside that comes with helping them near them.

“It would be just like the halfway house the church tried to slide into that estate that caused massive uproar a few months ago. Although it is a good central location, when there were homeless people camping there in the summer it was one of the first things holidaymakers saw when they parked their car in one of the main central car parks and didn’t leave a good first impression with them hanging around the main tourist information area.”

A resident, who did not want to be named, said: “I don’t wish to appear heartless but does a homeless hub need to be central? We are primarily a tourist town, so if we can keep our visitors happy and still serve the homeless in an area which is less visited by tourists, that would benefit everyone.”

Cllr Zoe Dixon, who is heading the homeless hub project, said: “Members discussed the public comments and the feedback provided to individual
councillors and felt there was a need to undertake a wider consultation to ensure that the right decision was reached.

“However, it was also noted that winter was fast approaching and that such a facility, if progressed, would be needed sooner rather than later. To this end it was decided that a public consultation exercise would take place quickly using social media, the local paper and that the issue would be brought back to the November EDGP for decision.”

Mayor Andy Hannan said: “The proposal is to fund a refurbishment of the day centre on St Michael’s Road to make it suitable to be a fully equipped homeless hub. It would have shower, laundry, cooking and meeting facilities and would be open at least five days a week, ideally with a qualified worker in situ to offer advice and signposting to anyone using the facility.

“We would hope that all the fantastic foodbanks and soup kitchen groups would use the hub bringing everything into the one place with the town council providing support. This will not be a homeless shelter but a place where they could be supported by the relevant bodies and
community groups that are already doing a brilliant job in our town.

“Hopefully the EDGP Committee will support the project by recommending to full council that the funding required to refurbish is released from our reserves and the further underwriting of the support worker is considered to allow the project to move forward.

"In time this should be funded by applying for outside funding. Cllr Dixon, Cllr Cheney and myself have been working with the various homeless support groups to make sure that this way forward has their backing. I feel it would be a positive step forward for our town if it is a success.”

By Warren Wilkins 19th September 2018

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