HOMELESSNESS: Plans approved for new accommodation centre for rough sleepers
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Proposals for a new accommodation centre for rough sleepers have been approved.
Liverpool Council’s planning committee gave the green light to plans to convert a student housing block on Smithdown Lane on the edge of the city centre.
The move will see the number of bedrooms in the building reduced from 64 to 59 to house rough sleepers as well as staff for the centre.
The proposals are part of a much wider overhaul of the council’s homelessness and rough sleeping policies and provision in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The council’s old accommodation centre for rough sleepers at Labre House was shut during the first lockdown and is now deemed unsuitable given the infection control requirements of the pandemic.
Speaking after the meeting, Michelle Langan, who runs rough sleeping charity Paper Cup, said the new centre would shelter people safely in a way no longer possible with communal shelters like Labre House.
Ms Langan said: “‘It is fantastic news today that the plans for the new shelter in Liverpool has been approved. Labre House was welcome and ground breaking in its approach to offer a place for shelter every night of the year – but sadly COVID has meant that communal shelters are no longer a safe option.
“The new space will allow people to access the support in a safe way. We welcome the new plans and credit the council staff who worked hard to find the right premises to make this happen.”
City centre ward councillor Nick Small told the meeting that there were extensive discussions with students currently living in the block, with the option for them to finish their tenancies early if they wished.
He said those who chose not to would have their tenancies finish in June as originally planned.
The wider overhaul of Liverpool’s homelessness provision will see the new rough sleeping accommodation block be the first step on the so-called “Liverpool Ladder”, a system aimed at getting people into longer term accommodation.
A report submitted with the planning application said: “The First Step from the Street pathway to be delivered at Smithdown Lane will form a key part of this vision and stepped approach by providing critical accommodation and support services for people at risk of rough sleeping.
“Smithdown Lane forms part of the Ladder, a partnership led vision developed at the beginning of Covid-19. Having this building as part of the ‘First Step from the Street’ offer continues to be at the forefront of that emergency solution.
“With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a need to ensure that any provision needed to include a high degree of self-containment to ensure the safety and wellbeing of clients, staff and visitors.”
During the early stages of the pandemic many homeless people were housed in apartments and hotels – and since then a council effort to move people into accommodation has seen hundreds rehoused on a longer term basis.