Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Hostel closures on the rise

Leeds City Council has defended their plans to close a city centre hostel. With admissions to Ladybeck House having ended, the 42-bed hostel with 24-hour staff support will close its doors on 4 March.

This will be the third hostel in Leeds to have closed in the last six months after Richmond Court, a 20-unit hostel for homeless families, and The Hollies, a 31-bed hostel for single homeless women shut in September last year. According to Councillor Peter Gruen there will also be “a gradual reduction in hostels across Leeds in the future”.

Asked if the closure was aimed at saving money a council spokesperson said it “was the result of a remodelling of services after consultation with homeless people showed they felt dispersed temporary accommodation with visiting support would afford them more privacy and independence, and remove the stigma often associated with hostels. We are endeavouring to modernise our services in line with customer preference”. According to the council fifty people had attended consultation events and they had undertaken telephone surveys with those unable to attend.

However, two former residents of Ladybeck are not convinced by the council’s claims. Phil Boden and John Whittaker are Big Issue sellers in Leeds and are in regular contact with people who have, like themselves, benefited from staying at the hostel. According to John he found it “a warm and welcoming place”, whilst for Phil “it put a roof over my head whilst I waited for somewhere to live after leaving prison.

Like many other homeless people I am against its closure as not everyone can live alone because of mental health problems or being unable to cope with paying bills. Also living with people who share similar problems can help. Furthermore there are not enough hostels as it is and I fear homelessness levels could rise”.

The council disputes the latter point, with its spokesperson saying, “There is a new contract in place for dispersed temporary accommodation which is flexible enough to change depending upon demand. There are no limits to the number of beds available to accommodate homeless people in Leeds and we also have a lettings scheme to facilitate access to tenancies in the private sector”.

The situation at Ladybeck is mirrored by events elsewhere across the north.

Providence House, a short stay accommodation for up to 68 men, is the largest in Rochdale. It will close on 31 March, bringing to an end the Salvation Army’s accommodation role that first started in the Lancashire town in 1967. Rather than continue to fund the work of the church, Rochdale Borough Council has said it is ‘in favour of commissioning smaller units’, but would ‘working with the Salvation Army to ensure the transition is as smooth as it can be’.

Back across in Yorkshire the Salvation Army’s Lawley House hostel in Bradford has also had its contract cancelled with the local council and will be closing in May. This first opened in 1971, and as well as offering shelter it has helped people tackle drug and alcohol problems. A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said, “The closure is the result of local authorities having to make some hard decisions because of spending cuts.”

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