New scheme puts a roof over the heads of rough sleepers

A DISUSED office block in Chertsey Road has been bought by Woking Borough Council to provide accommodation for the homeless.

The council secured the block with the assistance of £3.125 million in capital funding from the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP), which was launched in July to help local authorities keep rough sleepers off the streets. A further £364,000 of revenue funding was secured for dedicated support workers.

Woking Borough Council has purchased a disused office block from ThamesWey Housing, with help from the government’s Next Steps Accomodation Programme, to help keep rough sleepers off the streets

The property was acquired from ThamesWey Housing, the empty premises having been converted by ThamesWey Ltd, a company wholly owned by Woking Borough Council, into 25 self-contained studio apartments.

Thameswey Housing had initially intended to let the apartments on the open market, but, given the particular need for such a scheme faced by the council, it agreed to sell the property, provided it recovered its full costs in acquiring and converting the building. The total cost of the scheme is £6,792,664.

The acquisition is funded by the £3.125 million NSAP grant with the balance of £3,667,664 raised through council borrowing, which will be repaid using the rental income.

Previously, under an “Everyone In” directive from the Government in March, the council, working with local homeless charity York Road Project, repurposed the former HG Wells Conference and Events Centre and Woking Hotel to provide emergency accommodation for more than 130 homeless.

Cllr Debbie Harlow, the council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed significant pressure on our housing services.

“Working in partnership with York Road Project, we were able to offer all rough sleepers a safe and warm room in emergency accommodation.

NEW ROLE – Cherisse Dealtry has recently taken over as CEO of York Road Project

“We are delighted to have secured this grant funding, which will enable us to provide move-on accommodation and vital support to rough sleepers.

“It will ensure we can continue to take people safely from the streets and work with them to prevent them ever needing to resort to rough sleeping again.”

Move-on accommodation is effectively a stepping-stone between night shelters or emergency accommodation and independent living.

The scheme offers studio flats where people can live independently but with ongoing support from trained officers to help them sustain their accommodation and avoid repeat homelessness.

Cherisse Dealtry, CEO of York Road Project, said: “York Road Project staff and council officers have gone above and beyond this year to ensure that all of our support services and night shelter operations have been able to continue throughout these unprecedented times.

“No one should be without a roof over their head and it is vital that we continue to support the most vulnerable members of our community, to prevent them falling through the cracks of society again.”

Cherisse has recently taken over from Cath Stamper as CEO. “I’ve been working in the homeless sector for over 10 years, starting off as a frontline worker to managing a homeless outreach service in Guildford, before moving into managing accommodation services,” she said.

“I came to work for York Road Project in 2017 as the Chief Operating Officer under Cath and when she left I was appointed acting CEO.”

The council will allocate the apartments in consultation with York Road Project and other support agencies, and will work with York Road Project to set up the homeless to claim benefits in advance of moving into the new scheme, so that they can pay rent.

Cherisse added: “We are always thankful to the local community and even more so in these strange times. We have been blown away by the online donations to our Amazon Wishlist but also the donations of clothing and food items we have received these past nine months.

“Thank you for supporting us, we couldn’t do what we do without that support.”

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