An emergency care center set up for the homeless during the pandemic is expected to remain a temporary unit for at least another 12 months after councilors reject plans for the site to become a permanent feature.
The council purchased the former Groves Guest House on Chester Road in October 2020 to help fill a housing shortage as emergency housing at the University of Wrexham Glyndwr ceased and Ty Nos underwent redevelopment.
At the time, the arrangement was specifically temporary with an indication that at the end of a 12 month period it will either be sold or a full planning application submitted in support of the arrangement – with the latter before the authorities. advisers last night.
Councilors have been asked to approve a request to use the site as a permanent homeless facility, with more than 300 people across Wrexham in need of accommodation.
However, concerns have been voiced by local councilors and residents who have argued that there has been an increase in anti-social behavior in the surrounding area since the facility opened in January 2021.
Jayne Dickson, who spoke on behalf of the local community, said the location was inappropriate and residents had witnessed drug trafficking, people smoking cannabis and injecting drugs on the nearby streets from there. opening of the hostel.
Ms Dickson called on the committee to deny the request, saying use of the facility is now different from the Welsh government’s initial emergency requirement to house the homeless during the pandemic in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus .
She said: “We can see with our own eyes the damage done to the amenity of the area and the negative impact it has on the local population. It is distressing and it is untenable in our opinion.
“The area surrounding The Groves is well established, many families have lived in houses in this area for over 50 years, the properties are of historical interest and there is a second class listed property just two doors down from the location of the hostel.
“The impact of the conduct of people in the hostel has a negative impact on the use of the adjacent land – our community. For example, through the polluting discharges of tobacco, the consumption of drugs, light pollution, fear of crime and the personal safety of those who live on neighboring lands.
She added: “We would ask any counselors who might not reside in our neighborhood to ask themselves a question, if you lived here and wanted to feel safe in your own home, then they were told that a homeless center was opened then door, would you object like us?
“I think if you are honest with yourself you will agree and we urge you to decline this request.”
These concerns were echoed by Maesydre advisor Becca Martin, who requested that the need for the hostel be reconsidered once improvements to the Ty Nos facility are completed.
She also asked for the installation of a CCTV camera, the introduction of a substance exclusion zone in the area and that the building’s emergency exit be no longer used as an entrance and exit to give more security. privacy to neighboring residents.
Cllr Martin said: “The Groves Guesthouse is currently providing a vital service to one of our most vulnerable client groups and local residents understand this.
‘I know there have been many success stories that have emerged from the recently implemented changes to homelessness arrangements implemented across Wales by the Welsh Government during the pandemic and indeed the work hard work accomplished not only by those who implement them, but also by clients who choose to engage.
“The urban planning application indicates that you don’t think the installation would have a negative impact on the neighbors. However, a number of residents noted that there had already been a substantial increase in anti-social behavior in the area, especially near the guesthouse.
“It is clear that the guesthouse is being used as a triage center and therefore people are moving in before a risk assessment has taken place, which can certainly only increase the risk for local residents.
“This is particularly worrying given that the education department is currently looking to build the primary school in the immediate vicinity of the guesthouse and I think this really shows a lack of common thinking.
“The approval of the permanent planning is now requested rather than the extension as a temporary authorization.
“I would ask the planning committee to consider another 12 month temporary contract that would leave time for Ty Nos, which I and they believe is a much better location and built to provide the necessary support, to renovate while giving the possibility of a full and formal consultation. to be carried out with the inhabitants.
“There is a fine line between providing this much needed support and protecting the local community and at that point, I unfortunately think it’s not the right balance.”
Housing officer Julie Francis, of Wrexham Council, said the facility had “significant success in moving vulnerable people to better lives”, with 28 people displaced to permanent housing and 11 indicating the support they received. they need “in terms of other problems”.
She added that staff are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that there is an 8 p.m. curfew for hostel residents – the latter point disputed in committee.
Ms Francis said: ‘The people who reside there are homeless and not just sleeping rough and have become homeless for a variety of reasons, which can range from being on leave to loss of income and loss of home due to domestic violence.
“I have no doubt for a second that there are a few who have complex needs and need the support of our officers to move them to a better location.
“We currently have over 306 people in temporary settings such as Chester Road across the borough. 306 people in need of permanent housing and that’s with 3000 people who are currently on our list who are also in desperate need of housing.
She continued, “While I understand the frustrations of some communities because wherever we try to request that a facility be put in place to temporarily relocate people before we can move them, there is always angst and frustration about this and I fully appreciate and understand this.
“But we have a moral responsibility and a statutory responsibility to help these people and we have been very successful in Wrexham in doing so.
“It is on this basis, please, that we seek to obtain approval for this facility, and I am sure that in the future we will seek to seek more as the numbers increase day by day. day.”
Councilor Dana Davies moved the amendment proposing that the current temporary planning be extended for an additional 12 months.
She said: “When this model was presented to us on the board in September 2020 and we had a long discussion at our Part Two meeting, it was basically a resignation and pre-hire. on a permanent basis to help them become tenant-ready. “and noted,” this was an accommodation even before the pre-assessment, “in fact a reversal of what had been promised.
Cllr Davies also noted concerns that the ’24/7 run’ model as presented to advisers was not happening, relating her understanding that people are leaving and coming back. ‘one evening and one night via an intercom. Cllr Davies also asked why there was no kitchen and why the council was “shipping a meal a day” instead.
As the discussion on the development and creation of the site was in secret “Part 2”, the public ignored the debate and the promises made to elected officials.
A majority of committee members voted in favor of extending the building’s use as emergency residential accommodation for a further 12-month period, effectively rejecting a permanent change in use to homeless shelter.