A NEW 24/7 support centre for homeless people is set to open in Chester next spring.

Forfutures, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s contractor, has applied for planning permission to turn Hamilton House into a much-needed hub in the city centre.

It is proposed to turn a section of the ground floor of the council-owned property on Hamilton Place into a triage-style support and assessment facility for vulnerable rough sleepers and sofa surfers.

The centre will be staffed by housing and support specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who will assess the needs of each person during a short stay before deciding on the best support options longer term.

Janet Lawton, Strategic Homeless Lead at forfutures, said: “The new centre will play an important role in our work to support those who are sleeping rough.

“It will ensure that even more people in west Cheshire can access emotional and practical support that can enable them to transform their lives and move away from a life on the streets and into a safe and secure home.”

The news has been met with delight by agencies in the city, who have long been calling for a 24/7 facility to help tackle the ever-growing issues with homelessness.

Adam Dandy, of SHARE, told The Standard his charity’s outreach team had been asked to move into the new facility once it opens.

He said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been asked to move our daytime outreach service to the homeless from our current location opposite Storyhouse to this new Homeless Hub, working in partnership with ForFutures, subject to planning permission being granted which we desperately hope it is.

“Excellent news for everyone, especially people who are homeless.”

It comes after the Government introduced a new national model called the 'Rapid Rehousing Pathway' to ensure local authorities have the services they need to end rough sleeping.

The new homeless hub in Chester will ensure agencies in the city have the space and facilities to be able to run this structured pathway of housing and support.

If approved, the aim is to have the centre open by spring 2019. The project would be one of 11 similar schemes across the country being funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Cllr Louise Gittins, cabinet member for communities and wellbeing at the council, said: “Our aim is to end rough sleeping in west Cheshire and this support hub will really help us to achieve this goal.

“Our outreach teams at forfutures are working on the frontline with rough sleepers and the centre will ensure we have a place where specialists will be on hand to offer the right initial support and be able direct individuals to appropriate housing and emotional support opportunities we provide alongside our partners.

“It will be a safe, dignified, professional environment where highly trained officers can engage with people for a short time in a ‘sit up’ space before they move them on to more long-term support.

“The project has the support and encouragement of the neighbouring church and we have, and will continue to, consult with neighbouring residents and local businesses.”

Simon Groom, Chair of Outside In, added: “Outside In was formed to help coordinate and challenge the work of those voluntary, public and business organisations working with the homeless and those at risk of being homeless in Chester City and surrounding areas. This support hub will undoubtedly support our aims and objectives and more importantly, give support where and when it is needed and to those who need it most.”

‘Outside In’ is a local collective of charities, voluntary groups, faith groups, businesses, ForFutures, Turning Point, Cheshire West and Chester Council, CH1 Chester BID and Cheshire Police which are working together to support people sleeping rough.

* Plans for the new homeless support centre will go before CWaC's planning committee at a future date.