Council's plan to support occupants after leaving Hamilton House

9 October 2019

The Council has noted the decision by Chester County Court today to issue an Interim Possession Order (IPO) to the trespassers who have been occupying Hamilton House for the past week.

We acknowledge the notice served says that if they don’t leave the building within 24 hours they will be committing a criminal offence and be liable to arrest.

The group’s welfare remains our top concern. Aside from the ground floor Homeless Hub, Hamilton House is not fit for purpose and not safe for people to live in. The Council has been open about this from the first day of the group occupying the building and has been honest about its plans to proceed with legal proceedings in court.

Throughout their time in the building, the Council has offered support to the group inside and will continue to do so as we progress in our efforts to gain possession.

In partnership with forfutures and other members of Outside In, 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.

Councillor 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.”

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, and this important work goes on.

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, said: “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 the Council's website.

To obtain a paper copy of the survey or to share your views:

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