Plans have been announced to transform an empty former residential care home in Manchester into a 38-bed homelessness prevention centre.
Manchester City Council will shortly submit a planning application for the Longford Centre in Chorlton which would provide emergency temporary accommodation to prevent people becoming homeless and help them move forwards in their lives.
The centre, subject to approval, will be one of around 50 different housing and accommodation offers for homeless people in Manchester, with each providing support to different groups of homeless people and meeting different needs.
Subject to planning approval, the centre will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and created to help single people and childless couples who are new to homelessness by providing a safe and welcoming environment in which they can receive intensive support.
Services at the centre are being co-designed by the Council with voluntary sector and public sector organisations who work with homeless people and with people who have experienced homelessness themselves.
The centre will provide accommodation (including food) and support services under one roof plus planned activities to help people who have recently become homeless to rebuild their confidence and move on into independent accommodation, and employment, training or other opportunities.
There are many reasons why people become homeless and this support will be flexible and tailored to the individual. For some it might be mediation with their family to help get them back home. For others it might be help sorting out health or debt problems.
Other organisations will be asked to help at the centre to provide appropriate activities for residents during the day, for example gardening, cooking or art.
The centre will be available for people who are new to homelessness and have low to medium – rather than the highest – support needs. It is intended to supplement the range of existing accommodation and support services and people who need it will be referred to the centre by Council homelessness services and other organisations working with homeless people.
Councillor Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “This new centre will be just one part of Manchester's ongoing response to the challenge of homelessness but it is another important ingredient and it's a key component of the Greater Manchester framework being championed by Mayor Andy Burnham.
“By bringing a range of services together under one roof and giving people a safe and welcoming environment in which to receive support and move forward in their lives, we aim to help prevent people ending up on the streets.
“This is not a substitute for helping rough sleepers and other homeless people, which we and our partner organisations will continue to do, but is intended to provide early help to those on the very edge of homelessness. It’s something we’re keen to have in place for when colder weather sets in which is why we are about to bring forward a planning application.
“There will also be opportunities for local people, many of whom we know are concerned about the issue of homelessness, to volunteer if they would like to do something practical to support and work with homeless people themselves.”
Stephanie Moore of Chorlton-based Reach Out To The Community, which works with homeless people in South Manchester, said: “If somebody is at risk of becoming homeless their problems are only going to get worse unless they can be nipped in the bud. Prevention is an important part of dealing with this difficult issue and stopping people ending up on a downward spiral. We are totally behind this centre.”
A consultation on the proposals has been opened with Chorlton residents. One drop-in session has already taken place and people in the area are also invited to attend another between 6pm and 8pm on Thursday 5 October at The Longford Centre to give their views and find out more about how the centre will be managed. There will be further opportunities for Chorlton residents to input as part of the planning process once the application has been submitted.