Thursday, 21st August 2014

Tent city for homeless

A tent city and an old supermarket site are two of the ideas being discussed to house the growing numbers of vagrants in the town.

The number of rough sleepers is believed to be 21 compared to around 13 at the start of the year, and there are growing concerns about the increase.

The problem is considered to stem from the lack of provision for homeless sleepers in recent years and urgent action is being called for. Councillor Miles Kenny, a member of the rough sleepers task group, said: “The numbers of homeless people have gone up a lot – we have got a problem. It’s a result of getting rid of direct access hostels.”

Cllr Kenny said a number of solutions had been suggested. A tent city was one option being considered by the Shrewsbury Gospel Mission, which helps rough sleepers in the town.

He said: “There are people who I have spotted sleeping in tents in Castle Walk and under the English Bridge. The Gospel Mission are keen to have a tent city but the trouble is finding a suitable spot for such an idea and there is also a security issue with people sleeping in tents. We could end up with a refugee camp – it would need proper facilities. It’s not a bad idea but I can see problems with it.”

He said another idea could be to convert the old Tesco site on Arlington Way into an open access hostel. The council has been trying to sell the land to developers but each time deals have fallen through.

“Property prices are on a slide and it looks increasingly unlikely that the council will sell the land,” he added.

John Woodyatt, from the Isaiah58 Project, a homeless charity, said: “I think this is a brilliant idea and I would love to help run it. It is such a big place that we could have accommodation as well as rehab, counselling and advice from agencies and storage space for clothing and bedding all on one site.”

Andy Goldsmith, assistant manager at the borough council, said: “The building is not safe nor is it a suitable place for a hostel for vulnerable people. It is a daft idea and we will be demolishing the building as soon as possible.”