THE council says the Hamilton House squatters' welfare remains their top priority after it secured their eviction on Wednesday (October 9).

Chester County Court issued an Interim Possession Order (IPO) to the homeless protesters who have been occupying the empty five-storey office block for the past week.

They now have 24 hours to leave the building or they will be committing a criminal offence and could be arrested.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) and its homeless services contractor forfutures has continually stressed that, besides the 24/7 support hub on the ground floor, the building is not safe to live in.

A recent safety inspection revealed rooms with asbestos concerns, broken glass, uncovered electric cables and a hole in one of the floors.

CWaC says it has offered support to the group and will continue to do so as it works to regain possession of the building.

The group’s welfare remains "our top concern", it said.

In partnership with forfutures and other members of the multi-agency Outside In group, the council will "welcome individuals to the ground floor hub to discuss an offer of somewhere to stay and access to other services".

As occupiers leave empty floors they are invited into the assessment hub where they can stay whilst their needs are agreed and their options identified.

Cllr Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth, said: “Homelessness is a growing national issue and Chester is no different. The levels of support people on the streets need is increasing at the same time as funding for support services is falling. This cannot go on.

“I wish we could offer every person in Hamilton House and elsewhere on our Borough’s streets a permanent home, but when you consider that we have around 9,000 people on our social housing list and only 1,200 properties became available last year then it is not easy to see a quick fix to this growing problem.

“The reality is that, when people leave Hamilton House, the only offer available might be pop-up shelter-type accommodation to start with, or bed and breakfast or a direct access bed in our supported accommodation. It might be that an offer of more permanent housing is not in the area that they want to live, simply because that is all that is available in the borough at this time.

“These are the very real challenges we face in providing housing for people that need it.”

CWaC says that dozens of people have been supported in their move from a life on the streets into accommodation across the borough since the hub opened at Hamilton House in April.

Janet Lawton, Homelessness and Contract Management Lead at forfutures, said: “We’re ready to help all the people who are currently occupying Hamilton House and would encourage all those who are leaving the building to come and talk with us. Our team is available to listen to each person and work towards solutions which are best for each individual and their particular needs and circumstances.”

Simon Groom, Chair of Outside In, added: “Outside In fully recognises the unfortunate circumstances in which the individuals occupying Hamilton House often find themselves. We will continue to both support and challenge statutory, commissioned and voluntary homelessness services and ensure we work hand-in-hand with our homeless colleagues to secure an improved outlook for them during this difficult period."

Cllr Beacham added: “The council and our partners have listened to the concerns of the occupants in Hamilton House this week and we know that we have work to do – particularly when it comes to having people who access services involved in designing and improving those services.

“The council remains committed to ending homelessness in the borough and will continue its efforts to help people who are sleeping rough to access housing and support.

“As we explore ways of improving things, I would encourage you to share your views about how we solve homelessness by taking part in our Homeless Strategy consultation which runs until next month. Homelessness is a community issue. We welcome your views and we will use them to help improve our services in the future.”

The engagement on the Homelessness Strategy invites service users, residents, businesses and volunteer groups to give their views on how Cheshire West and Chester Council should provide effective support for homeless people over the next five years.

The 12-week consultation on the strategy runs until 1 November 2019, and suggests a set of five key priorities along with actions to deliver these.

For information and to share your views in an online survey visit:

To obtain a paper copy of the survey or to share your views e mail: Telephone: 0151 3566421 or write to: Housing Strategy, Civic Offices, Civic Way, Ellesmere Port CH65 0BE.