HOMELESS protesters evicted from a council-owned office block in Chester city centre have moved into a new squat next to a popular pub.

Around 29 people had been living in Hamilton House before Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) secured an interim possession order through the county court on Wednesday.

They were given 24 hours notice to leave and at around 9.30pm last night (Thursday, October 10) moved into a privately-owned building next to Telford’s Warehouse in the Garden Quarter.

There are said to be around 15 people there at the moment but this could soon rise to 20 or 30.

The group is protesting about a perceived lack of housing support from CWaC and its homeless services contractor forfutures.

They say there is no reason why they should endure nights on the cold, wet streets when there are empty buildings available.

The Standard visited their new home this afternoon when spokesman Wayne Lammond again outlined the reasons behind their decision to squat.

“This Government and the council need to pull their finger out and build some social housing flats,” he said.

“We need one and two-bedroom flats. Forget all the student accommodation which they keep on building.

“Richard Beacham [CWaC’s cabinet member for housing] needs to start asking for more money from the Government.”

Mr Lammond said he had spoken to the owner of the building and assured her that they will vacate it as soon as she wishes to start with a planned development there.

“We’re not going to damage it,” he said. “We’re actually going to fix the plumbing! Some of the copper piping had been stolen but my mates are coming over with their tools so we can get one of the toilets working.

“We said that if we’re holding her up then we’ll move out and onto somewhere new. We just want to stay while we can and try to keep warm. She seemed alright about it.”

He said there is running water, working lights and plugs, and food and other supplies are being brought over by members of the public.

Meanwhile, CWaC has said that a “full clean-up” of Hamilton House – which houses the forfutures homeless support hub on the ground floor - will now begin following the eviction.

Six members of the group were said to have taken up the council’s offer of support and met with officers to speak about their "individual needs".

This is in addition to "multiple" others who spoke with housing support officers throughout the week, with two turning down the offer that was made, the council says.

Cllr Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Growth, said: “It was good to see some of the people who I met at Hamilton House last week, meeting with housing officers yesterday. The offer of support is still available – I hope more will come along to the hub soon to chat about their needs. There is no quick fix - there is a queue for beds in supported housing and for more permanent social housing too. We are always looking for properties to house homeless people. If you are a landlord and have properties available then please get in touch.

“Clearly this is a complex issue, and like everyone else we don’t want people to have to live on our streets. We need more houses and we need people to have access to support services where funding is increasing, not decreasing. Until then homelessness will continue to be a national crisis that is getting worse, not better.

“Homelessness is directly linked to the impact of austerity and the lack of adequate and long term funding for mental health and addiction services. This is leaving police and housing officers and health professionals on the front line of a system that should be about changing lives and not about managing a crisis. Anyone who has ever tried to support a homeless person will know that the system is stressful to navigate for those who need help and for those who work in it everyday. That’s why we continue to heavily value the support we receive from our partners in the voluntary and faith sectors - especially in Chester and Northwich - without whom this situation would be even worse.

“In the coming weeks we will review some of the local provision and will make sure that service users, staff and community groups are able to contribute their ideas as part of this.”

Janet Lawton, Homelessness and Contract Management Lead at forfutures, said: “The facility at Hamilton House provides a vital service for so many people across Chester who are either homeless or facing becoming homeless. It allows us to provide a one-to-one assessment of someone’s needs and build a package of support that can help them move away from life on the streets into a safe and secure home.

“We continue to work with our partners to bring an end to homelessness.”

The council is running an engagement on the Homelessness Strategy that 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 the council's website.

To obtain a paper copy of the survey or to share your views: Email: housingstrategy@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk; Telephone: 0151 3566421; or write to: Housing Strategy, Civic Offices, Civic Way, Ellesmere Port CH65 0BE.