02:06PM, Friday 26 January 2018
Claims that a homeless charity was pressured out of its home last year and that a ‘homeless exclusion zone’ was drawn around the town centre have been denied by Slough Borough Council (SBC).
In November, Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC) moved from it’s town centre day centre in Burlington Road to a smaller site in Whitby Road, owned by St Michael’s Church.
This was part of a deal with SBC who wanted its building back for town centre regeneration, they had also received complaints about anti-social behaviour around the day centre known as Serena Hall.
SHOC now needs to find a new permanent home before April 11, when its current agreement with St. Michael’s Church expires.
SHOC’S CEO Steve Hedley says he was pressured into signing the agreement with SBC, in which the charity received £475,000 in return for giving SBC back its site, 18 years in to an 80 year lease.
He said: “They were putting an incredible amount of pressure on us,”
He also said they started getting frequent routine inspections from SBC, which he says was a ‘conspiracy’ to push them out, claiming the routine inspections ‘had not manifested at all in the past 18 years’.
He said: “One way or another they would engineer a way in which they would take the building back.”
SHOC has lost four members of staff since the move and its intake of service users has halved.
Mr Hedley says this is because the service is out of the town centre where many homeless people are based.
“The consequences of moving out of town is reducing people's life chances to get the help and treatment and is extending the time people spend living on the streets,” he added.
The agreement with SBC also included a map showing a red line around the town centre, in which SHOC is now forbidden to find a new site.
Mr Hedley has labelled this a ‘homeless exclusion zone’.
He said: “Any attempt to describe it in any other way is frankly absurd.”
An SBC spokeswoman said: “We are very concerned SHOC has decided to twist the facts of what was an agreement made mutually between them and the council.
“This attempt to paint this as somehow an exclusion zone is scaremongering and ignores the nearly half-a-million pounds they will receive and will benefit their organisation.
“We do wish to mitigate the effects of anti-social behaviour evidenced in the area whilst SHOC was at Serena Hall and protect the town centre and Chalvey area. But this area is not an exclusion zone for homeless people.”
She added that on top of anti-social behaviour complaints, another reason for wanting the building back was for future town centre regeneration.
She says SBC supports and works with numerous organisations to tackle homelessness in the town centre.
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