4.51pm – 1st March 2017
VULNERABLE homeless people, possibly mental health patients, could be housed in metal storage container-type accommodation in North Weald, it has emerged.
Staff at Norway House, where three of the ‘pods’ could be located, have voiced “strong concerns about the heightened risk to staff and other residents about increasing the number of occupants at Norway House with single vulnerable people”, a council report reveals.
In response, Epping Forest District Council has said that the six additional people who would be living on the site would not warrant a need to increase on-site staff however “to assist, support and protect Norway House staff when they or other residents feel at risk from residents, particularly out of normal office hours and when lone working, it is proposed that a private security company be appointed to provide security officers to attend Norway House on an ad-hoc basis when required”.
The district council is proposing – provided planning permission is granted – to put three of the modular units – to accommodate six “single vulnerable people’ in one of the car parks at Norway House, the council’s homeless hostel.
The council report, which will be considered by the cabinet, gives a legal definition of “vulnerable people” and adds: “In reality, the vast majority of single vulnerable people are people with serious mental health problems – which can include schizophrenia, psychosis and bipolar disorder.
If the £385,000 pilot scheme goes ahead and proves successful, the council says it will consider using the ‘pods’ elsewhere in the district.
The council says such accommodation would cost less than traditional-built, permanent accommodation and the cost of placing homeless households in expensive bed and breakfast hotels.
The cabinet report describes the ‘pods’ as the same size as shipping containers, of robust metal construction that can be painted in a range of colours and can be stacked with staircase access.
They have thermal insulation and come fitted with carpets, blinds, internal fittings – there would be a shared kitchen – and white goods.
North Weald district councillors Anne Grigg and Dave Stallan were made aware of the proposals ahead of the publication of the council report.
The report states that Mr Stallan supports the proposal in principle saying it will help alleviate the current housing problem.
Mrs Grigg has said that in light of the increasing need for temporary accommodation for homeless households she supports the proposals but does not find the exterior of the ‘pods’ visually attractive.
North Weald Bassett Parish Council will discuss the proposals on Monday.
Parish council clerk Sue de Luca told Everything Epping Forest: “Probably many people in North Weald are unaware of this proposal.”