Dozens already helped as long-delayed homeless hub finally up and running
- Credit: Archant
Dozens of people have helped to find a safety haven after a much-delayed hub for the homeless was finally opened in Norwich city centre.
It has been more than 18 months since the green light was given for St Martins Housing Trust to open The Old Reading Rooms - a first port-of-call for people looking to access the charity's support.
The proposals were met with fierce opposition from neighbours, who feared it would cause an increase in anti-social behaviour in the area, and a legal challenge was mounted against its approval.
However, after a judicial review filed with the High Court by the Recorder Road Comunity Group was rejected, the way was finally paved for the new facility to open.
The centre, also known as the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub, finally opened in November 2020, a year and a month after planning permission was granted, and five months later dozens of people have reaped the benefits of it.
Jan Sheldon, chief executive of St Martins, said: "We have not been able to operate at full capacity due to Covid regulations but so far we have supported 47 people.
"It has made a significant difference - having a specialist space which is focused on early assessment has meant that people have had access to the support they need as soon as they need it and in a safe, warm and dry space.
"The additional capacity has been very useful and sadly will be likely to become needed even more as we start to see the financial fallout of Covid."
And the charity has also taken action to address the fears of the neighbours who fought so vehemently against the scheme.
It has set up a committee to hold regular meetings with neighbours, where concerns can be aired, and a community engagement officer has also been employed to directly liaise with those living nearby and help keep on top of issues.
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Dr Sheldon added: "Initially there were concerns and it is possible we may always have some issues which we need to address, but we will be responsive and work hard to listen to feedback and to be the type of neighbour that local people are comfortable with."
Once at full capacity, the facility will be able to offer shelter for 16 people at a time.