A previously-disused office block is soon to have a new lease of life as affordable accommodation to help rough sleepers get back on their feet.
The Council is seeking to buy the block of newly-converted apartments in order to secure move-on accommodation for those affected by homelessness in the borough, and prevent them returning to the streets.
At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, housing authorities across the country received an ‘Everyone In’ direction from Government. As a result, Woking Borough Council, working with local homeless charity York Road Project, repurposed the former HG Wells Conference and Events Centre and Woking Hotel, to provide emergency accommodation to over 130 homeless people.
Following a decision made by Full Council last night (Thursday 3 December), the acquisition of the dedicated housing block is expected to provide a more sustainable option, to ensure that borough residents with ongoing housing issues will not find themselves with nowhere to go once the current arrangement ends.
The empty premises were converted by ThamesWey Ltd, a company wholly owned by Woking Borough Council, into 25 comfortable, self-contained studio apartments. The block of flats will give residents who have fallen on hard times a home for up to three years, whilst they rebuild their lives and secure permanent homes.
Cllr Debbie Harlow, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “This year, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have placed significant pressure on our housing services. Working in partnership with York Road Project, we were able to offer all rough sleepers a safe and warm room in emergency accommodation.
We are delighted to have secured this grant funding, which will enable us to provide move-on accommodation and vital support to rough sleepers. It will ensure we can continue to take people safely from the streets and work with them to prevent them ever needing to resort to rough sleeping again.”
Cherisse Dealtry, CEO of York Road Project, said: “York Road Project staff and Council officers have gone above and beyond this year, to ensure that all of our support services and night shelter operations have been able to continue throughout these unprecedented times.
“No one should be without a roof over their head and it is vital that we continue to support the most vulnerable members of our community, to prevent them falling through the cracks of society again once life returns to the new normal.”
The project will be part-funded by grant funding from the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP), launched in July 2020, with the aspiration of supporting local authorities to continue to keep rough sleepers off the streets. The initiative has granted £3,125,000 capital funding to the Council to acquire the apartment block on Chertsey Road, as well as a further £364,000 for dedicated support workers.
For more information, visit www.woking.gov.uk/housing