A homelessness charity has submitted plans to increase its provision in the Queen’s Park area of Bedford following the closure of its Clarendon Street night shelter.
The King’s Arms Project (KAP) provides various support services for individuals and families in need of assistance to come out of homelessness.
Thanks to a government grant, the proposal is to convert space in the rear of the property at 26 Winifred Road in Queen’s Park into two bedrooms and reopen a third bedroom, which had been used for staff sleepovers.
This will increase the HMO (house in multiple occupation) capacity for the building from eight to 11 single-use bedrooms.
The charity said the Covid-19 pandemic led to changes in how support is provided, meaning that shared units – such as those at the Clarendon Street hostel – are no longer suitable.
For nearly 30 years, the Night Shelter had been open 365 days a year, providing shelter, food and support for those needing to find a safe, permanent home.
“We have seen literally thousands come through our doors [at the Night Shelter] seeking refuge of some kind,” said Kirstie Cook from KAP.
“Pre-covid we ran the shelter at a capacity of 18 people a night in shared rooms, on a first come first serve basis.
“Covid changed all that though and we had to reduce our numbers to six residents, one per room and remain open 24 hours a day.”
This enforced change gave the charity time to review their service and inspired them to make some permanent changes.
“We realised it is far better for people to be in single rooms as it makes for a calmer atmosphere and allows for a feeling of safety and privacy for the residents whilst still giving them access to in house support at any time,” said Kirstie.
“We also realised we wanted to remain open 24 hours a day rather than having to ask people to leave during the day when they are vulnerable and don’t have a place of their own to go to.”
Thanks to a grant to provide ‘transformative provision for rough sleepers’, the charity has moved its whole service to Harries House in Queen’s Park.
The planning application states that the building has been used in a number of different capacities over the years, including as a care home and a high support hostel for up to 14 residents.
Also in the application, it was noted that the charity’s client group generally cannot afford cars so it doesn’t need an increase in allocated parking spaces.
Especially, it added, as the property’s locality means residents can travel via public transport, bicycle or on foot.
The Overall Consultation Expiry Date is currently Thursday, June 23. More information can be found on the Bedford Borough Council’s planning portal, reference 22/01153/S73A.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter
Additional reporting by Erica Roffe