Chester 24-hour rough sleeping support centre opens

By Phil McCann
Cheshire Political Reporter, BBC News

image captionHamilton House will help people access council housing services, NHS clinics and other support

A new government funded centre aimed at taking rough sleepers off the streets has opened in Chester.

The 24-hour Hamilton House is designed to be a "safe warm space" with support workers from different agencies.

Angela Claydon from Cheshire West and Chester Council said existing services were "just not coping with the numbers that were coming".

Homelessness activist Adam Dandy said the centre would "cut through a load of red tape".

The council said the hub would help people access council-run housing services, NHS-run addiction services and other support.

Mr Dandy, from Chester-based homeless charity Share, said "The idea is to make it inviting to get people in and want to come in off the streets, so we can sit down and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake and have a chat to break down the barriers. It's very informal.

image captionHomelessness activist Adam Dandy said the centre would help to reduce bureaucracy

"This is a place where people who've got desperate issues going on in their life can come and talk about those issues."

Ms Claydon said the council had not appreciated the scale of homelessness in the area.

"We've found that although we've got services in place they were just not coping," she said.

Karl, a former homeless man who slept rough for eight months but is now living in supported accommodation, said the hub would make it easier for people to get the help they need.

"There are a lot of mental health problems on these streets" he said.

"A lot of people are anxious and they don't want to speak to people, so the staff in this building will hopefully be able to engage with them."

The hub is one of eleven that have been funded by a £4.8m government project.