A charity which opened a new accommodation unit for the homeless in Worthing three months ago has said it is working hard to resolve concerns raised by nearby residents.
Worthing Churches Homeless Project opened the 37-bed short stay accommodation unit for the homeless in Lyndhurst Road in May, after developers Roffey Homes offered the charity temporary use of the building.
At a police panel meeting in the town centre on Thursday, residents raised concerns about the impact the project was having on the area.
Councillor Jim Deen, who was at the meeting, said: “Clearly there was really strong feeling being expressed about certain issues to do with antisocial behaviour, alcohol abuse, that kind of thing, in the area around the property.”
Sue Stevens, PR and fundraising manager at Worthing Churches Homeless Project, said the charity was working hard to resolve the issues.
“Obviously we are concerned that residents have concerns,” she said. “We are trying our hardest to work with them to address it.
“We recognise that we are part of the community.
“We need the whole community on board in order to help homeless people.”
She said the charity had delivered a letter to immediate residents with 24-hour contact details for the project and said: “We will meet with them if they wish or respond accordingly.”
In response to concerns about loitering in the area, the charity has introduced regular patrols.
The project has also extended its no visitor policy from the building to the grounds of the property and is asking clients not to meet people outside the building.
Ms Stevens said educating the clients was key.
“Some haven’t had homes for a long, long time. We are working with them to educate them on what it’s like to live in a community,” she said.
The project is also working closely with police to move ‘unknown loiterers’ from around the property who are not known to the charity but are ‘there to prey on vulnerable people’, she said.
“The police have been very clear that there has been drug issues in the area for a longer time than us being here,” she said.
“But because of our project there is heightened activity in the area. “The police are working really closely with us and the council as well.”
She said the charity was assisting local businesses and, after being invited to review CCTV footage of shoplifting at a shop nearby, was able to confirm that the thieves were not clients at the unit.
Thanks to all these efforts, Ms Stevens said: “The number of complaints has reduced drastically.
“We were getting a couple of emails a week, that’s dropped now and we haven’t got any this week or last week.
“I do think this is working.”
There are around 40 residents currently living at the property, some who suffer with mental health problems or problems with alcohol and drug abuse, she said.
Since the unit opened, five people have been able to move on to more stable, secure accommodation – an outcome Ms Stevens said was ‘brilliant’.
She said: “It is really changing people’s lives.
“Most of them have lived very, very chaotic lives.
“We have seen some results which are quite staggering and people really starting to address the issues in their lives.
“Some are making real strides forward and we are really hopeful we can change their lives around.”
Selden ward councillor Keith Bickers said he had visited the property on a regular basis and had meetings with management and staff, residents and businesses to ensure concerns raised were swiftly resolved.
He said: “There have been some incidents and issues since the project commenced and these have been dealt with quickly.
“There is always the possibility that problems can occur at first with this type of initiative and by speaking to local people and the management at WCHP we have been able to take immediate action to resolve issues as they arise.
“We also meet regularly with the police and the council’s anti-social behaviour team to agree priorities.”
Mr Bickers said the project had been ‘praised widely’ across Worthing and by other local authorities.
He said: “I am very pleased this initiative is proving successful and I would particularly like to thank local residents for their support.
“There will no doubt be some issues that continue to arise and by maintaining regular contact with all parties these will be dealt with swiftly ensuring that we continue to provide help and support for those in most need.”