A VITAL service for homeless people and rough sleepers which closed earlier this year could be re-created as part of a new housing support centre.
The Stratford District Council (SDC) run Link Project in Waterside provided support and advice to rough sleepers, those in temporary housing and socially isolated as well as showering and washing facilities, food and drink and donated clothing.
It was closed in February after an unspecified incident prompted safety concerns much to the dismay of users and volunteers.
A temporary service has been operating from various locations across the town twice a week but it is hoped the new Stratford Housing Plus Centre – which will be based at the former Fred Winter department store on Guild Street – will incorporate the services provided by the Link when it launches next autumn.
The £1.5million development will offer ‘immediate’ accommodation and ‘move on’ apartments to help people transition into permanent housing as well as a range of support services from local organisations and a ‘pay as you can afford’ cafe.
Those in need of immediate accommodation would need a referral from an agency or charity although project leader Paul Spooner told the Observer the centre would welcome those on the streets to the cafe and to use some of the facilities.
Mr Spooner said: “Anyone can use the cafe including the public and anyone homeless. All the facilities will be here for people to wash their clothes and have hot food and drinks, and we would encourage that.
“We have met Link volunteers who were very enthusiastic about the centre and looking to work with some of the other charities. So the services the Link provided will operate throughout the centre.
“Also importantly, it will bring together all the services for people who are vulnerable or homeless in one building. We want to give people the opportunity to live in and find their feet again and secure tenancies but to stay with them long enough to meet as many needs as possible.
“It will be a professionally run centre the town can be proud of – providing positive opportunities for people in need.”
A spokeswoman from Stratford District Council said it was likely a provider would be commissioned in the future to run the Link from the building.
The project is a collaboration between Birmingham-based housing association Spring Housing, the district and county councils, and local charities and organisations.
A planning application for the centre is expected to be submitted to SDC early next month.