Homeless shelter to be moved after complaints

A HOMELESS shelter that found itself at the centre of complaints over its proximity to a children’s playground is being moved to stop further problems and concerns.

And it is hoped A Bed Every Night (ABEN) will be out of its current home by Christmas.

Housing the scheme at the site of the former library at Ryecroft Hall, in Audenshaw, sparked fears over users being so close to children using the playground, which lies less than 50 yards away.

Now the facility is on the move to Ashton after an agreement with the Roman Catholic church to use the building next to St Ann’s Church.

And despite the scheme’s success, a Tameside Council report admits it has to be moved to prevent further complaints from people living nearby and also to stop a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

The report states: “Failing to move the ABEN service from Ryecroft Library brings a risk of increased issues in the local area and an increase in complaints from local residents.

“Failing to provide an adequate service for rough sleepers brings a significant risk of harm to the rough sleeping population and an increased risk that criminal behaviour and anti-social behaviour associated with rough sleeping will continue to increase.”

ABEN was introduced by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and has taken 40 rough sleepers off the streets since 2017, when two church halls – St Christopher’s in Ashton and Union Church in Hyde were first used.

Tameside Council successfully applied for a grant of £309,115 under a new scheme announced by the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government.

That helped fund the employment of specific members of staff tasked with co-ordinating work to tackle rough sleeping, additional outreach workers, additional accommodation units, winter provision and a rent guarantor scheme.

Now ABEN is on the move after the authority was granted a further £420,000 for 2019/20.

Putting the scheme so close to a children’s playground and wedding venue, which is often used as a filming location by Coronation Street, brought additional issues as more than 30 people used it, which saw security guards working there day and night.

However, the council report insists it was the best location, adding: “The building had only recently been vacated by a pupil referral unit, it was in good condition, was safe and easily accessible.”Now the shift is needed as the service is being developed from just a roof over people’s heads.

Initially, a property on Plantation Industrial Estate off Whitelands Road, close to the border between Ashton and Stalybridge, was looked at but it would have cost £250,000 to renovate.

Now after talks with the church and Father Simon Firth, the building next to St Ann’s will be used, once work has been done to upgrade it in exchange for a peppercorn rent.

It was used by the council approximately 10 years ago and officers said: “Initial inspections of the building have shown that it is in a serviceable condition and that, with some minor updates and refresh works, it would be an ideal location for the ABEN service.”

The new centre will also be used as a place where the reasons why people ended up homeless can be tackled, with the long-term aim of improving their health and wellbeing and get them back into suitable long-term housing.

St Ann’s Church is also developing the ground floor of the building into a community hub and once ABEN moves there, people using it will be welcomed into activities.

Tameside Council insists it already has the funding for the required work, with its estates and legal team working on the complexities of the move.

But the general feeling is it has to happen, sooner rather than later.

The report adds: “Now that the service has been successfully established, there is a need to move to a more suitable location.

“With this in mind, the service should be able to move out of Ryecroft Library by December 31 at the latest, but with the aim of moving out by Christmas.

“The final costs of the move have not yet been calculated, but funding has been identified within existing budgets to cover the cost of the move.”

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