Homeless crisis on horizon as Taunton charity considers closing advice centre (From Somerset County Gazette)
Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting COUNTY GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Homeless crisis on horizon as Taunton charity considers closing advice centre
HOMELESS people in Taunton could suffer after a charity revealed it may shut its town centre advice centre.
Shelter is considering closing its premises due to a funding crisis, putting 11 jobs at risk.
The Taunton Association for the Homeless charity warns that the closure could put pressure on other advice services in the area, and Taunton Deane Council said it could affect local authorities and the voluntary sector.
TAH chairman John Shipley said: “Shelter gives specific advice in very complex cases and I believe other agencies will struggle to match the level of advice required.”
A Shelter spokesman said: “This will be a blow to our staff and particularly the people in the affected areas who will no longer be able to get face-to-face advice and support.
“With the ongoing recession, benefit cuts and the high cost of housing meaning more people struggle to keep a roof over their heads, now’s the worst time to take away the housing safety net that helps people stay in their homes.”
Staff including housing, debt and benefits advisors and a housing solicitor work at the centre in Apsley House, in Tower Street, which has operated as Shelter’s Somerset-wide hub since 1981.
Consultations were held at affected centres after the charity was told by the Ministry of Justice to expect a 50% cut in its legal aid funding to support its face-to-face advice services.
Despite campaigning, the charity has decided it is no longer viable to bid for funding in these areas from April 2013.
The spokesman said: “We’ll consult with staff, but it’s likely we’ll have to propose closures.”
TAH, which provides accommodation and support for more than 500 people a year, currently relies on Shelter to handle its more complex housing cases but now fears it will struggle to find alternative agencies with the same specialist knowledge.
A spokesman for Open Door, which operates a day centre for up to 30 home-less people in Taunton, said: “The closure will mean even less good advice will be available to those who need it.”