Homeless nightshelter to open in grounds of Wellingborough School

Pratima Dattani from Support Northamptonshire speaking at last night's meeting.
Pratima Dattani from Support Northamptonshire speaking at last night's meeting.

A homeless shelter will be created in the grounds of a public school to help the growing number of rough sleepers in Wellingborough.

The town’s first permanent night shelter should be up and running within eight weeks thanks to a joint effort between Wellingborough School and the Wellingborough Homeless Forum whose volunteers have been helping to look after those living on the town’s street.

There were many passionate speeches made at the borough council planning meeting last night (Wednesday) as people involved with the community project told the councillors why approving the night-shelter application was the right thing to do.

Street pastor Wendy Steele said: “As a street pastor of five years I frequently speak with and befriend people who are homeless.

“I have seen first hand bloody noses and broken bones. I have witnessed bullying and violence. They have been urinated on. Suicide attempts are frequent and some have died.

“Others get taken to hospital only to get patched up and sent back to the street, their meagre belongings sent to the bin.

“Most homeless people try to lie low to stay safe. I have some quotes from rough sleepers.

“One gentleman said ‘a shelter is worthwhile because it is out of the cold. We get something to eat and I am safe rather than out here where people may give me a kicking.”

Estates manager at the fee-paying school James Petrie said the building, which used to be a dance hall, was surplus to requirements.

He said: “The school see it as a massive waste of an asset and want to do something positive and satisfy a social duty. The town is really crying out for this.”

He said any concerns had been dealt with and that the school was ‘excellent’ at safeguarding its pupils.

Student Lucy Ransom also spoke out in favour of the shelter and it was a ‘great project’ that she was proud of.

The shelter will be manned by three volunteers and open from 7.30pm to 8am each morning. Users will be able to get a hot evening meal and also breakfast.

The meeting heard there is currently a woman sleeping rough in the bandstand in Castle Fields Park.

There are rough sleepers behind flat blocks on the Queensway estate and tented encampments on the Swanspool estate.

Council leader Martin Griffiths, who said his heart was in favour of the shelter but his head had safeguarding concerns, said that an official count by the council of rough sleepers on November 1 stood at 10 people.

Those who work with the homeless in the town estimate the figure to be much higher.

A roving night shelter opened on Sunday (Nov4) and is operating out of church halls across Wellingborough. It will remain in place until the permanent shelter is up and running.

All councillors voted in favour of the change of use to the Wellingborough School outbuilding to a night shelter.

There is a planning condition that there should be a boundary between the playing field and the application site.