Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Coming to the rescue of a homeless shelter – council’s ‘compassionate’ bid to save facility

By Adrian Zorzut, Local Democracy Reporter

A west London council has stepped in to buy a property used as a homeless shelter after its owner said it wanted to sell, a council report has revealed.

Hammersmith and Fulham council has secured the seven-room property in Lillie Road, Fulham for a price “significantly below” market rate and is urging cabinet members to approve the purchase when they meet next Monday.

The property, which is the only one of its kind in the area, is owned by Home Group and run as a homeless hostel by the charity St Mungo’s.

The council offered to buy the 13-bed shelter after Home Group signalled it wanted to sell as part of a “divestment strategy” in early 2023, a report to the cabinet revealed.

Under current rules, purchases worth more than £300,000 must receive the cabinet’s seal of approval, although the exact price has not been revealed.

Unlike other homeless shelters in the borough, the home offers access for those with mobility issues and its sale to a private buyer would have seen the shelter likely close for good.

The home consists of four one-bedroom and three three-bedroom flats and has been managed by St Mungo’s since April 2022. The report says residents are homeless or former rough sleepers with complex support needs, which means they require on-site staffing by St Mungo’s.

A report to the cabinet read: “Owing to the rising numbers of people sleeping rough in Hammersmith and Fulham, and across London, and a shortage of available buildings that are also suitable, there is no capacity to accommodate a potential loss of 13 bed spaces elsewhere, nor is there an appropriate alternative site to which the existing service could be relocated.”

The council said it has factored maintenance and refurbishment costs into its offer to Home Group and aims to cover the purchase using grants from the Mayor of London.

It comes as rough sleeping in Hammersmith and Fulham increased 11per cent in 2022/23 from the previous year, according to council records. The council registered 238 rough sleepers, up from 214.

In the first six months of 2023/24, it has seen more rough sleepers – 303 – than in the whole of the previous year.

Rebecca Purchase, regional head for St Mungo’s Hammersmith and Fulham, said the charity supported the council buying the property.

She said: “If the property was sold to a private buyer, it is likely we would lose this provision and people would lose their homes and may need to relocate far away from their personal relationships and professional connections.

Against the backdrop of increasing homelessness in London, and a cost-of-living crisis this could mean more vulnerable people sleeping rough and facing the dangers that this brings.”

Hannah Howard-Jones, director of asset at Home Group, a non-profit organisation, said: “Our property on Lillie Road was no longer supporting our overall strategy and early last year, after careful consideration, our board agreed that the only option we had was to sell it on.

“We are delighted to see that the council has applied to purchase the property and potentially safeguard the future of those residents.”

A Hammersmith and Fulham spokesman said: “H&F is a compassionate council – and with the cost-of-living crisis and the number of rough sleepers rising across London, it is crucial that this property continues to offer a home to those residents in need. We are determined to end rough sleeping in the borough.”

Pictured top: Sculpture to homelessness (Picture by: David Dixon / Wikimedia Commons)

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