Homeless charity claims Corby Council's new shelter will be 'unsafe'

The charity which ran Corby’s homeless shelter last winter says the council’s proposed new shelter will be unsafe and is in the wrong location.

Corby Nightlight says the Dorking Walk venue being promoted by Corby Council could leave to problems for both users and volunteers and so will not be putting in a bid to take over the running of the shelter.

Instead it says it will look for its own accommodation to help support the town’s homeless this coming winter.

But Cllr Bob Eyles, who is lead member for housing, says the building and location is ‘ideal’ as it was previously used as the venue for mental health charity Safe Haven.

The council says it has received three expressions of interest by other groups to take over the running of the shelter and will make a decision within the next fortnight.

The authority decided in June that it would be spending £130,000 to make the necessary renovations to the large building on the Kingswood estate, which is owned by the council and formed by joining three separate houses. It has also received £115,000 from the Government to employ a consultant to help set up the shelter and also two officers who will work with rough sleepers to help get them back on track.

In a frank statement Nightlight chairman Diane Boyd said: “It was with real regret that the trustees of Nightlight informed Corby Council they would not be submitting an expression of interest to run the council’s proposed night shelter this winter.

“The proposed facility at Dorking House was felt by the charity to be inappropriate in both its location and layout for the provision of a safe or secure night shelter for some of the most vulnerable adults within the community.

“The proposed building is a mile from the town centre, making access an issue for rough sleepers. It is situated in the middle of a residential area, indeed it is attached on two sides to occupied residential properties.

“The estate is already struggling with many issues of its own and the trustees felt that locating a rough sleepers’ shelter within it would be irresponsible to both the charity’s guests and the residents of the estate.

“Nightlight has a duty of care to its guests and the wider community and also has to consider its ability to recruit, retain and keep safe volunteers, who are often required to arrive and leave the premises late at night.

“It was felt that the estate’s complex network of streets and alleyways could potentially place individuals at risk. Space for parking is also limited. The number of volunteers needed at the facility at any one time would lead to an increase in traffic in the area and would require more parking places than required for normal residential use.”

Nightlight and its army of volunteers helped dozens of people last winter have a roof over their head and a warm meal after it set up a shelter in the former police station.

The station, which had been sitting empty, had been loaned to the charity by Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold in response to the increasing number of people who were living on Corby’s streets.

But the charity was involved in controversy, with former manager Nicola Pell leaving after being caught on CCTV assaulting a former boyfriend and the police also started an investigation into £10,000 of missing donations.Nightlght says the new proposed building does not lend itself to operating as a shelter as it has a small kitchen and the five separate dormitory bedroom spaces would be hard for volunteers to monitor and ensure the shelter is drug and drink-free.

It also says there is a lack of recreational space so guests would be confined to their rooms and have nowhere to socialise.

They say they have raised their concerns with the council ‘but unfortunately the council felt unable to change its programme of work at this stage.’

The charity said: “Nightlight continues to be dedicated to the eradication of rough sleeping and the causes of rough sleeping in the town and is now looking to see how it can augment any provision the council delivers. The charity will continue to look for potential accommodation and has already begun its recruitment and funding drives for the winter ahead.

“I know it’s hard to imagine in the middle of this heatwave, but come the worst of the winter, the work that Nightlight does can literally be the difference between life or death for some of our guests. We simply cannot let them down.”