A NEW 24/7 hub aimed at helping rough-sleepers get off the streets has been launched in Chester.

The facility at Hamilton House in the city centre provides a base for agencies to link up and support people into accommodation.

These include the council’s housing and homeless services contractor forfutures, St Werburgh’s Medical Practice and Westminster Drug project, which helps people tackling substance misuse.

Charity Share will also be based front-of-house at the centre, on Hamilton Place, offering food and drinks and support from its volunteers.

The hub will offer around eight emergency beds, showers, toilets, a washing machine and a kitchen where customers can prepare food.

A programme of daytime activities is also being developed and forfutures is in talks with other charities, voluntary groups, faith organisations and businesses to join the line-up.

Chester and District Standard:

The hub provides plenty of space for experts to carry out assessments to help homeless people.

It comes after Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) secured government funding for a pilot project called ‘Somewhere Safe To Stay’.

The cash also pays for trained ‘Navigators’ whose job it is to engage with homeless people, or those at immediate risk of becoming homeless, and provide ongoing assistance.

The idea is that people will arrive at the hub either independently, through referrals or via the outreach team, which scours the city and wider borough on a daily basis looking for rough-sleepers to help.

A triage-style system will then see them put on the right pathway to getting a roof over their heads and receive the right support.

If needed, people have up to 72 hours emergency accommodation at the hub before they will be moved into further temporary, supported or social housing.

Some may be encouraged to move in with family or friends or helped to return to the area they came from.

It is said there are currently around 40 people known to be sleeping rough across Cheshire West and Chester, despite an official count of 17 in October last year.

Chester and District Standard:

A rough sleeper in the city centre.

During an official launch event, forfutures Strategic Homeless Lead Janet Lawton told The Standard that she has high hopes for the facility, which many agencies have wanted for years.

She said: “The main thing is we are keeping people safe and we are making decisions with them. I hope it will get more people into homes.

“The hub gives us the space and time to get to know them and get them to think about their options.”

She said the SWEP (severe weather emergency protocol) night shelters provided in Chester had proved that providing a relaxed place for people to stay and chat reaped results.

Chester and District Standard:

forfutures strategic homeless lead Janet Lawton.

Lisa Walker, a forfutures Navigator, added: “You have to make people feel comfortable. It’s about building trust and respect – that’s how we can help them.”

Businessman Adam Dandy, who founded Share, said he was delighted that forfutures invited his charity to be a part of the hub.

“We’ve been calling for a facility like this for three years,” he said. “Whereas before you might have waited weeks for a meeting to discuss how to help someone this really streamlines the process so you can do it on the day.

“It gets rid of all the BS and politics and is just about helping people off the streets. I think it’s great.”

Cllr Angela Claydon, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “It’s a marvellous facility. We are very lucky as a council that we have been given this grant by the Government.

“We want it to be a hub so people can come here and be helped off the streets quickly. The key thing is that it will be run by trained, paid staff who will be able to put people on the right pathway. Everyone is different and everyone has different needs.

“The aim is to get people a roof over their head and then provide the wrap-around support.”

* Anyone who sees a rough sleeper can call the forfutures outreach team on 0300 123 2442 (option 3) and they will try to assist.

Case study: 'If you engage, they will help'

ALMOST a year ago Carl, 33, split up with his partner in a town near Chester and found himself homeless.

He told The Standard that he then travelled to the city as he knew there would be better support services available.

For eight months he slept on the streets until one bitterly cold night he sought refuge in a forfutures-run night shelter.

There he met Navigator Lisa walker who convinced him to engage with the agencies that could help him and has stuck by him as he receives support.

Now he is staying at a hostel and he hopes to be moved into a flat soon, after which he can look forward to getting back into work.

“Lisa’s a lovely lady; she’s been amazing,” Carl said. “To be fair to forfutures if you engage with them then they will help.

Chester and District Standard:

Carl talks to our reporter.

“A lot of people are that involved with drugs and have addictions and mental health issues and that’s why they are still on the streets and won’t engage. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

He believes the new hub will help people who need it but said they may need more than the initial three-day (72 hours) assessment period to fully engage.

“I know the staff here want to help and I think the hub will be a good thing,” he added.

Carl said he used to run his own airbrushing business and has also worked modifying cars. He hopes to secure a job in the near future.