Fury Over Plan For Homeless Shelter

Plans to turn an empty office block in Coventry into a shelter for the homeless have enraged people living and working nearby. The proposal to turn the Harp Place building in Sandy Lane, Radford, into a 24-hour, 37-bedroom shelter for homeless people has been submitted to Coventry City Council’s planning department.

But residents in the area say they only found out about it through an anonymous leaflet distributed to more than 60 households. The application, by the Coventry Cyrenians, states their interest in converting the building into a day centre and temporary accommodation with a capacity of 120 people.

In a covering letter, the Coventry Cyrenians say: “Our intention is to provide a range of services from the premises aimed at reducing the incidence of street homelessness among the people of Coventry and maximising their potential to live as independently as possible.”

But an anonymous leaflet to residents states: “Are you aware that Harp Place is planned to be a 24-hour night shelter for the homeless and a day/night centre for alcoholics and drug addicts? Are you aware all alcoholics and drug addicts will be actively encouraged to hang out here each day – every day?”

It has sparked fury among residents who believe the plans are being pushed through without consultation – and say their neighbourhood already houses a half-way house for convicted offenders, a mental health drop-in centre, a homeless hostel and an asylum seekers’ refuge.

The Cyrenians admit a small percentage of clients may face challenges in terms of alcohol or substance misuse, but they promise staff will be available 24 hours a day and CCTV will monitor all activity.

But this is not enough for dad-of-two Phil Harold, aged 37, of Ellys Road, Radford, who has organised a public meeting over the plan.

He said: “I’m the first person to help the homeless but we all know how this is going to go and enough is enough. We knew nothing of the plan and I cannot believe that there are no other suitable buildings in Coventry. Why is it that Radford gets these places all the time? I shall fight this all the way.”

Mark Rogan, manager of the nearby Merrick Lodge Hotel in St Nicholas Street, Radford, is among those voicing fears. He said: “We want people to be looked after – we are not heartless in that respect – but we are concerned about the social impact on the area and car parking provision. There are only 15 car parking spaces and I am concerned people will start using the hotel’s car park. I’m not sure putting these people close to a licensed premises is such a good idea either.”

Teacher Sharon Wills, aged 43, of Sandy Lane, works in a school near a similar shelter and said: “It is not a question of ‘not in my back yard’ because we already have a number of centres, but this is proposed close to a school. Where I work people hang around with a can of beer and a bottle of alcohol but it isn’t a problem because it’s in the city centre. Here it would be in a residential area.”