Taken from Wokingham Borough Council News Centre.
Outdated temporary accommodation for homeless families in Wokingham borough is now being replaced with almost double the number of state-of-the-art, stackable homes.
Wokingham Borough Council has removed 12 old mobile units from its Grovelands Park site in Winnersh and craned in 23 modular two-bedroom homes which are far more energy efficient and should last for more than 50 years.
These can be double stacked, allowing more families to be accommodated safely and comfortably while they wait for somewhere permanent to live, and have their own toilet and bathroom as well as an open-plan lounge, dining room and kitchen.
One will be specially adapted for households including members with disabilities.
Dignity and comfort at an uncertain time
Like other local authorities, the council is required to provide temporary emergency housing for homeless families with children or families and individuals who are vulnerable until they find a settled home.
The Grovelands site plays an essential role in this but the old prefabricated units needed to be replaced as they were originally built as holiday homes and not intended for longer term occupation.
The council undertook extensive works to make them as welcoming as possible and prolong their lifespan but they had reached the stage where further works were neither possible nor economically viable.
The new timber-clad homes have modern and reliable heating systems and are highly insulated which will prevent pipes from freezing in winter, reduce heating costs and limit their carbon footprint. They have the latest fire safety and sustainability measures like sprinkler systems, double glazing, solar panels and are fully furnished with internet access.
Some homes are also trialling the latest air source heat pump technologies, an environmentally friendly system that draws heat from outside into the home.
Grovelands Park itself will also be upgraded with improved parking and drainage as well as electric vehicle charging points.
‘Limiting the impact on families and individuals’
Cllr John Kaiser, executive member for finance and housing, said: “Homelessness is a fast-growing issue across the country and, sadly, Wokingham borough is no different. We’ve seen an increase during the coronavirus pandemic and coupled with the rising cost of living, this trend is likely to continue.
“As such, we’ll be investing in short- and long-term solutions to meet both today’s and the future needs of our residents.
“Improving and increasing the amount of temporary accommodation at Grovelands Park will ensure that we have a safe, suitable supply to meet future need while helping people to live in comfort and dignity at a distressing, uncertain and vulnerable period in their lives.
“This, in turn, will limit the knock-on effects that homelessness can exert on families, such as disruption of schooling and work as well as making it harder to keep in touch with friends, relatives and other sources of social support. It can take many months to find a permanent home so it is imperative that we do all we can to alleviate this.
“The new homes will also reduce our reliance on bed and breakfasts, which are expensive, generally have shared facilities and are always outside of the borough, which can increase the sense of isolation for those facing homelessness.
“Combined with other measures like our highly effective rough sleeping strategy, which we’re hoping will eliminate rough sleeping in the borough within the next three years, we’re working tirelessly to build safer, stronger communities by tackling the problem from all angles.”
Here to help those in need
The council has successfully placed about 100 people who were sleeping rough, or at risk of doing so, into temporary accommodation since March 2020 and is seeking Government funding to continue the efforts it began during the coronavirus pandemic.
Working in partnership with other agencies, it continued to actively seek out people who were struggling and find them a place even after the statutory duty to do so under the “Everyone In” emergency measures was dropped in summer 2020.
Those in need were offered a range of support services and no-one who was helped has returned to the streets in the long term.
The council has also launched its first permanent Housing First support scheme for former rough sleepers by buying four flats with Government funding. These are now let and there are plans to expand the service further.
Anyone at risk of becoming homeless, or who knows somebody who is, can learn more about the support on offer by visiting www.wokingham.gov.uk and searching for ‘homelessness’.