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Plymouth night shelter to open all year round

Tuesday, 14 May 2024 07:39

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Sleeping pods for the homeless outside Hamoaze House (courtesy: Plymouth City Council)

It normally operates during the winter months

A night shelter for rough sleepers in Devonport during the winter months has been given permission to operate all year round.

Plymouth City Council’s plans committee approved the proposal for Hamoaze House due to a growing rise in homelessness.

But they gave consent on the condition that the management plan is refreshed with input from officers and ward councillors and that an engagement forum regularly takes place with the community.

It follows concern from some residents that summer opening could lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour.

The site has been open since 2020 operating from 1 October to 31 March. It has 12 sleeping pods, eight inside the Grade II listed building at the southern end of George Street and four in the courtyard.

Hours of opening will remain unchanged, from 10pm to 8am. The facility has two showers and two toilets.

The building is currently also used as a day centre for drug and alcohol rehabilitation and offers “wrap around support” helping people to move on to permanent accommodation.

Mark Bignell from Hamoaze House said the night shelter was the only option for some people to access a safe and warm environment and it was the start of “a journey to recovery”. It was provided by the Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) and part of the Plymouth Alliance supporting those with complex needs.

He said in February Plymouth City Council counted 55 rough sleepers in the city and nationally there were almost 4,000.

More than 100 people had used the shelter during the last six months it was open and more than 50 per cent went on to stable accommodation including reconnecting with family members.

Everyone who used the shelter was actively encouraged to be involved in running the facility and to engage to the activities on offer during the day, he said.

It was a fully staffed service and people had to be referred, they couldn’t just turn up. Mr Bignell said there was a “robust” management plan in place.

Devonport councillor Mark Coker (Lab) said he was not against the facility but he was also representing residents’ concerns – six had written objections to the planning authority about the proposal.

He said during the covid era this facility was open during the summer and the community saw an increase in vandalism and anti-social behaviour. There were large gatherings of people from various facilities in the area including Hamoaze.

He said the management plan need to be strengthened with a pro active rather than reactive approach to issues.

“We need safeguards in place to make sure everything possible is done to make sure our way of life is not impacted too much. We need to protect the community as well as the residents living at Hamoaze House.”

Cllr Zoe Reilly (Lab, Honicknowle) said she had done shifts at the night shelter and it did incredible work with rough sleepers and addicted individuals: “There are a lot of rough sleepers and wherever they are there are going to be complaints about anti-social behaviour, These are very complex individuals who deserve a place to stay.”

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