Fears over new St Albans homeless centre on schools route

St Claire's nursing home on Church Crescent

St Claire's nursing home on Church Crescent - Credit: Archant

Fears over the safety of children living near proposed temporary accommodation for homeless people in St Albans city centre have prompted angry scenes at a public meeting.

Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association wants to turn a former care home for people with mental health problems, St Claire’s in Church Crescent, into accommodation for the homeless.

They told residents at a meeting on Monday that their proposal was for 16 bedrooms with shared bathrooms, to provide a roof over the heads of people who have made a homeless application to St Albans district council and who need temporary housing until they find a permanent home.

Housing support staff would be available during the day and a concierge would be present over night.

But the Herts Advertiser understands the meeting quickly became heated, with Hightown staff being shouted at while discussing the scheme.

About 30 people attended the consultation including Lucy Povoas who warned that the proposal would fundamentally change the “security, stability and character of the immediate area no matter the safeguards and precautions” promised by Hightown.

She and fellow objectors consider the scheme unviable as Church Crescent is a main pedestrian thoroughfare for young children attending nearby schools.

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Lucy told the Herts Ad that the homeless accommodation would be a “stone’s throw from Victoria Park, which local residents have worked hard to create as a safe play area for large numbers of children and families”.

Also, Church Crescent is a “small residential road with a high proportion of families, children and elderly people”.

Lucy said there was already a “substantial” NHS facility, Albany Lodge, which provides an in-patient unit for people with mental health problems in the same street.

She added that residents were concerned about the “transient nature” of those to be accommodated at St Claire’s.

But David Bogle, chief executive of Hightown, said: “There is need for short-stay accommodation for local people in the St Albans district.”

He said that as a result of feedback at the meeting the association would now prepare a question and answer document for residents before submitting an application to the council.

David said that St Claire’s, a pair of Victorian houses owned and managed by Hightown, was decommissioned by Herts county council earlier this year.

The district council’s portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Brian Ellis, said neighbouring residents need not fear that homeless people staying at St Claire’s might have behavioural problems.

He said: “Everyone going into short term accommodation is risk assessed. We don’t place people with special needs into this type of accommodation.”

When people had become homeless, it was usually as a result of landlords selling up in the private rental sector, or family breakdowns.