Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Change at Arlington House

May 18 2009
Arlington House: ‚Äö?Ñ??400 sub-standard bed-spaces on long, institutional corridors‚Äö?Ñ?? Arlington House: ‚Äö?Ñ??400 sub-standard bed-spaces on long, institutional corridors‚Äö?Ñ??
Arlington House residents worry that ambitious redevelopment plans will reduce provision Arlington House will reduce its capacity for rough sleepers from 400 to 120 under redevelopment plans. Residents of the long-established hostel in Camden, north London, have voiced their concerns to The Pavement about reduced facilities. However, Michael Wake, co-group chief executive of the Novas Group, said he wished to reassure service users that the moves were to improve conditions at Arlington House: "The hostel currently provides 400 sub-standard bed-spaces on long, institutional corridors, with residents sharing WCs and showers, and only one canteen and four TV rooms. "The new hostel will provide 95 bed spaces of supported accommodation as part of London Borough Council Pathways Programme, and 35 affordable bed spaces for low-paid workers, including ex-hostel residents moving on." The redevelopment is taking place because the accommodation is below national space standards. Knocking the 400 rooms together to meet these measurements would halve the number of digs, but the introduction of en suite facilities, plus additional requirements for wheelchair access and expanded communal areas, will limit the number of beds to 120. This reduction, admits Mr Wake, will result in what he terms a "major decant". However, he added that all residents affected by the changes have been re-housed in a range of accommodation suitable to their needs, following existing good practice resettlement procedures and with the support of the London Borough Council. "In the past, though we housed 400 men, actual referrals to the hostel each year ranged between 80 and 120, with the hostel providing a 'warehousing' or institutional environment, where people stayed long periods." "The refurbished Arlington will be more comprehensively linked into all supported and move-on accommodation within Camden. Combining this with more proactive support, we will be able to house as many - if not more - people, men and women, during the year." The key theme to the plans appears to be helping people to become independent, with the 35 smaller rooms being akin to bedsits, with private kitchenettes and staff on hand to help people with cooking and personal budgeting, in the hope that once residents become adjusted to these arrangements, they will be more able to move into their own accommodation. All residents will be permitted to use the communal areas whenever they please. Building work is scheduled to begin in early 2008, and is anticipated that it will be completed by summer 2009. Mr Wake explained that there had been a two-year proposal period, during which time Novas had contacted local residents, chaired two public meetings and printed notices in the press to inform people about the changes. There were also several meetings with Arlington House residents. The Novas Group will not profit from the development. "The bed spaces are funded, as previously, by Supporting People and rental income as with any other hostel in the sector," said Mr Wake. "Some of the training areas aim to develop social enterprises run by employing residents; but should any surplus be made, it will be covenanted back into the charity to support its work with residents." However, the residents who contacted The Pavement were concerned that these plans did not fit with the original principles of Arlington House. The building, which was opened in 1905 by local philanthropist Lord Rowan, has long provide a bed for both long-term settlers and those passing through the capital with limited funds. Its most famous guest was George Orwell. Mr Wake insisted this development was necessary and stressed that Novas was not alone in undertaking this type of work. "Most of the main providers, such as St Mungo's, are also involved in similar improvements." These improvements include replacing or repairing roofs and windows, enlarging living quarters, providing wheelchair access to all areas of the building, en suite facilities, and larger communal spaces to allow increased training provision and support to residents. "Arlington was conceived as a hostel for working men based on philanthropic principles," concluded Mr Wake. "And Arlington today, following the refurbishment, aims to provide housing and support for single homeless people, assisting them to develop the skills to move on and live independently in the community."