THE FORMER homeless drop-in centre in Stratford is set to be converted into a flat.
A planning application has been submitted for the previous base of the Stratford District Council-run Link Project, in Waterside, to be turned into a one-bedroom flat.
The centre was closed in February after an unspecified incident prompted safety concerns.
The service – which ran five days a week – provided help, support to rough sleepers, those in temporary housing and the socially isolated, as well as showers, washing facilities, food and clothing.
A temporary service was set up over summer – hosted between St Gregory’s Church Hall and the United Reformed Church (URC) in the town.
The drop-in sessions – currently just one afternoon a week – are set to run until October.
A planning statement reads: “The current use of the property as a drop-in facility has been deemed unsafe and has been subject to loitering outside the hours of operation of the service. Service users have also caused some concern to members of the public during hours of operation. Returning the property to residential accommodation will alleviate some issues of concern in this area.
“The proposal will not meet the current amenity value – as the project that operated from that site will be relocating to a more suitable location. The proposal will reinstate a much-needed unit of affordable accommodation.”
When contacted by the Observer, a district council spokesman said a permanent venue had not yet been found but the search was ongoing.
The drop-in sessions currently take place on Tuesdays from 12.30pm to 2.30pm at St Gregory’s. The final session at the Warwick Road church will be on Tuesday September 3 before they return to the URC in Rother Street on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
Stratford’s Liberal Democrat leader Susan Juned is concerned about the welfare of those vulnerable and homeless during the upcoming cooler months.
She said: “The Liberal Democrats raised this at the April district council meeting and were told that decisions on re-opening a facility would be made at a meeting. We are still waiting.
“We are concerned that it may be sunny now, but cooler weather will soon be with us and it is vital that the facilities that were provided by the Link are re-instated as soon as possible – and definitely before winter sets in.”
The party has previously called for the district council to start building its own houses again, using money which developers pay to the authority in exchange for permission not to build on-site affordable houses, as well as an accommodation facility for homeless people.
Former Link volunteer Jill Harris said she was still in touch with fellow volunteers who all missed the project.
She told the Observer: “Now it’s only three hours a week where we operated 40 hours a week. There’s just no comparison.
“We all feel the same. It’s got taken away from us.
“I’ve gone from cooking breakfast every morning, doing washing and cleaning now there’s nothing. We all feel empty now we can’t do anything. We were there as well, for a purpose, something to be involved in. Helping people out.”