Former pub site becomes refuge for the homeless

Clarence House senior team manager Roger Defoe, left, pictured with Cllr Anthony Forth, portfolio holder for adult services at Bedford Borough Council
Clarence House senior team manager Roger Defoe, left, pictured with Cllr Anthony Forth, portfolio holder for adult services at Bedford Borough Council

A multi-million pound facility to house and support homeless people with complex needs will open in Bedford next week.

Clarence House will house 29 people in a custom-built site in St John’s Street, where the Clarence pub used to stand.

It will be open and staffed 24 hours a day, and is seen as a key addition to tackling homelessness across Bedford Borough.

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson told the T&C: “We know we have a homelessness problem in Bedford – not just with rough sleepers but beyond that such as with people who are sofa-surfing.

“A number of those people also have complex needs and Clarence House will provide that support.”

The centre will be run by One Housing on a not-for-profit basis.

Rough sleepers will not be able to just turn up at Clarence House and be given a room; those who do will be directed to the appropriate place or agencies in Bedford.

When people are given a place each individual will get a key worker, a personal support plan, and bespoke skills advice to help them achieve more independent living.

They will be given help tackling personal problems, such as mental health issues or drug and alcohol dependency.

Various other agencies will work with residents, including volunteer groups, while everyone wil be given dinner each day.

And there will even be a chance for a small number of residents who have pets to bring the animals in with them.

Roger Defoe, the senior team manager who will be leading the launch, said: “The help can even be with things like budgeting, cooking, or giving residents haircuts.

“The overall aim is to help people to independent living. And those people who don’t reach that stage in their time living here will eventually go on to another agency where they can get ongoing support.”

12 of the rooms will be dedicated to rough sleepers who lead the most chaotic lifestyles. They will often have tried and failed to get help in other services and may have been previously excluded from other supported living in Bedford.

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson inspects the kitchen in one of the apartments

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson inspects the kitchen in one of the apartments

A complex needs scheme will provide a safe environment for these individuals to re-engage with the services available to them. This will reduce the cost to council tax payers, and is a model which has worked successfully elsewhere in the UK.

The other 17 units will be for people with medium to high needs, who are likely to be more engaged with the system but need additional support.

Depending on the residents’ needs they can stay for up to 18 months.

While the scheme cost £7million to build, the majority of that came from an agreement with developers when the adjacent The Heights flats was built.

To support the scheme there was just under £1m from the Government’s Homelessness Change Programme and £435,000 of Recycled Capital Grant Funding.

Residents will also pay £27 per week rent from their benefits.

Councillor Anthony Forth, portfolio holder for adult services at Bedford Borough Council, said: “This is a significant investment, but it will bring significant benefits, and not just financially.

“Homelessness is a problem everywhere, including in Bedford, but this will make a major difference to many vulnerable people’s lives.”