Police say new £420k regional homeless hub in Preston will cut anti-social behaviour

A £420k investment into a new rough sleepers hub in Preston will take the pressure off the city's stretched emergency services.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 5:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 8:08 am
The Foxton Centre, Preston

The city is one of 11 areas across the country which has been picked to provide ‘Somewhere Safe to Stay’ for people living on the streets.

It will mean the hub, which will operate out of the established Foxton Centre, will be open 24/7 for people as a place to sleep with six extra beds and a private area for women and other vulnerable homeless people.

It will also bring a space to provide medical and dental care for people as well as support for people suffering from drugs and alcohol addiction.

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Jeff Marsh, chief executive of the centre in Knowsley Street, said: “Hopefully what we will see is people’s support needs will be addressed quickly and in a timely way.

“One that deals with not just another homeless problem, because homelessness is a symptom of other things that are happening in people’s lives, but a timely service that will help them.

“I’ve seen it myself, people who are mentally really distressed at the police station. That takes out a huge amount of police time. If we can help through this hub, that will free up police time.

“Our Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) project focuses very much on how many times people end up with unplanned hospital admissions.

“Can we stop that and save money so that we are not gumming up the systems with inappropriate interventions?

“It will mean that these hard-pressed services such as A&E and the police can look after people better and react to them in smarter ways and take the pressure off services.”

The investment comes after Preston City Council (PCC) successfully bid to be a part of a Central Government scheme which means that the authority is now part of a pilot project to develop a “Rapid Rehousing Pathway” for rough sleepers.

As part of the government’s £100m Rough Sleeping Strategy the Somewhere Safe to Stay centre will be one of 11 set up across the country, announced by communities secretary James Brokenshire.

These will help provide immediate shelter and rapid assessment for those sleeping rough or at risk of doing so as well as specialist support to address those with complex needs such as mental health problems and substance misuse.

The hub in Preston will be up and running by Spring 2019 with government provisionally investing up to £420,620.

Coun Carol Henshaw, chairman of a homelessness scrutiny committee at PCC, said: “It’s fabulous that we are getting this money, although it is a shame that it’s going to be spring before we are fully using it.

“Obviously it’s the coldest time of year and we are not going to be getting the benefit of it.

“If you can encourage more of the medical facilities to look after the people who need it that’s great because it’s obviously really difficult to get help when you don’t have an address.”

Elaborating on the new services the Foxton Centre will provide, Jeff said: “We will be providing a substantial increase in the activity that we do with rough sleepers.

“It will be 24/7 provision in the city for people which is a massive step forward.

“Exactly how it’s going to pan is yet to be decided but it will mean proper laundry facilities at our building and extra bathrooms for people to get clean.

“We want to create a medical suite where people can have access to primary medical care and dental care. Also a space for drug and alcohol workers so that all the needs that people have are addressed quickly rather than a more piecemeal approach.

“We do have emergency accommodation here now but we will see an improved sleeping area.

“During the Beast from the East we had 28 people sleeping in here on the floor.

“We’ll have six more emergency beds with private beds to accommodate women.”

Coun Salim Desai, chairman of a parking scrutiny group at PCC , warned that with many of the homeless people in Preston sleeping in the old Market Hall car park he would welcome the hub as another place for them to sleep when the building is demolished in the new year.

“The Foxton Centre has built up trust with homeless people,” he said.

“With the demolition of the car park they will need opportunities and if this is presented to them it will be good. We need to hope and pray that they engage.”

Jeff told the Post that the Market Hall car park area is a place where many homeless people go to sleep for the night. He said: “In September we did a street count all round Preston between 3am and 7am.

“We counted 27 people sleeping rough that night and 15 of those people were in the old market car park.

“That’s a big slice of people who use that space at different times.

“It’s exciting times for the centre. It’s going to be really hard work but we are really looking forward to getting these people off the street.”

“People die on the streets. It’s a dangerous place to be.”