A plan to convert a former college building into supported flats for homeless people in Bedford has been greeted with acclaim by councillors.
Rogers Court, on the corner of Kingsway and Cauldwell Street, has been bought by Bedford Council using money from the Government to provide short-term accommodation for people who need help to put their lives back together.
“If there’s one positive thing that has come out of this pandemic it has been this council’s response to homelessness, and taking people off the streets and helping to turn around not tens but hundreds of lives,” said council Labour group leader Cllr Sue Oliver (Kempston North).
Cllr Oliver and her planning committee colleagues were asked to approve plans to convert the former Bedford College building into 20 flats where homeless people could also get help and support.
Individuals are currently staying in hotels that aren’t designed to meet their needs or provide support. And that can’t be guaranteed in the future, the committee was told.
Cllr Oliver added: “In my mind, there is no doubt that this is exactly the right place for this kind of facility and that hopefully, we will be able to carry on turning around more lives.”
Councillors at their meeting on Monday queued up to support the application.
Lib Dem deputy leader Cllr Wendy Rider (Brickhill), who also holds the adult services portfolio, praised “excellent work being done”.
But Conservative Jim Weir (Kempston Rural) won the race to propose approval, and the committee unanimously supported it as others seconded and “thirded” it.
A report considered by the committee said potential crime and community safety concerns will be addressed by 24-hour staff and security on the site which is near to Bedford Free School and Bedford College.
“In addition, all individuals will be required to undergo a full assessment of their needs before entering Rogers Court to assess suitability,” said the report to councillors.
“Each resident will be accommodated under a licence agreement which will include terms and conditions specific to delivery of a supported housing environment, including the requirement to engage with multi-agency support services and pathway plans.
“All individuals staying at Rogers Court will have an allocated caseworker throughout their stay and beyond.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter