Closed social club in Northampton could become shelter for rough sleepers

The social club, which is at the edge of the Northampton Rail Station site, has been empty for three years.
The social club, which is at the edge of the Northampton Rail Station site, has been empty for three years.

A former social club is set to become an emergency night shelter for Northampton's rough sleepers.

The proposal would change the British Rail Sports and Social Club, in St Andrew's Road, to a facility where homeless people can sleep and be directed to permanent housing or health programmes.

Planning director Steven Boyes said: "This proposed facility is aimed at male rough sleepers and is to provide emergency overnight accommodation.

"Visitors to the shelter will be offered a floor space, washroom facilities and light refreshments in the morning, such as tea or coffee, and toast.

"It is envisaged that the facility will operate for up to two years, by which time a more permanent solution can be found. Or those who have been rough sleeping will be included on programmes that provide accommodation and welfare facilities."

As of June, there were officially 25 people sleeping rough in Northampton, and the borough council aims to reduce it to zero by June next year.

Planners identified the former club, which is now owned by the council, as a medium-term solution partly because rough sleepers gather nearby already.

A smoking shelter at the back has apparently been used by homeless people before, although the building has remained secure.

If approved later next week, the night shelter will be manned by two full-time members of staff and a team of volunteers from existing religious and charity groups, overseen by a board.

Opening hours will be from 9pm to 9am, with people only admitted - after being screened for drink and drugs - for the first hour-and-a-half.

However, people living across the road in Western View, Black Lion Hill, have objected.

Three letters raise concerns such as "homeless people congregating [while they are] waiting for the shelter to open (potential for street drinking)" and "what happens to the people turned away from the shelter (perhaps in a drunken state)”.

Other objections were that the shelter "is located close to a primary school and nurseries" and "is close to a community with significant deprivation issues".

Planners say they believe the single storey building was built in the 1950s and extended in order to house beer barrels.

It has been closed for about three years.