A bid to allow an Exeter night shelter to open all-year-round and extend its remit to support rough sleepers is on the verge of getting the go-ahead.
The city council’s own application to change to the opening times of The Junction have been recommended for approval.
Planning chiefs on the authority are set to decide the fate of the scheme next Monday (April 27).
How people experience a city which does care for homeless people could have a direct impact on shopping and tourism, but also influence how attractive the city is to work and live in…
The Magdalen Street facility currently has permission to open from October to April.
It is proposed this is changed to all-year-round and that it can also operate as a 14-bed shelter with some daytime activities from April to the end of September.
The Junction remains a mixed-gender shelter and provides a dry warm and safe place for rough sleepers and homeless people.
Opening hours would be from 6pm to 9am, Mondays to Fridays, and from 6pm to noon on weekends and bank holidays.
During the daytime hours, the building would be used as an educational, training and community facility for homeless people in Exeter.
It would work with voluntary agencies in the city to provide support and promote recovery.
Officers have told committee members that opening the shelter during the summer months would have a significant impact on people using it and a big public benefit.
The report adds: “Although the fear of crime and personal safety is perceived from objectors as a result of the proposed use, the result might actually be the opposite.
“It gives the homeless an alternative to rough sleeping and support in their current situation, and the existing issues with rough sleeping in the city centre will probably be reduced, even if it will not solve the homelessness problem in Exeter.
“Although the proposed use has primarily a social objective, it does have an impact how people visiting or work experiencing the city with less rough sleepers.
“How people experience a city which does care for homeless people could have a direct impact on shopping and tourism, but also influence how attractive the city is to work and live in.
“The change of use will have a minor impact on the surrounding area, but a great public benefit by contributing to social inclusion, reduce deprivation and support homeless and rough sleepers when they are as most vulnerable and at risk to become seriously ill or die due to exposure to freezing temperatures during winter months.”
The Junction would be staffed by a minimum of two workers during opening hours.
In winter, 26 beds are provided, but, from April to October, there will be a reduced capacity to 14.
Councillor Emma Morse, lead for supporting people, had previously said: “No-one should have to rough sleep and the night shelter is a vital resource to the city in its response to ending homelessness.
“This as an opportunity to engage with homeless people and help them move on to more stable accommodation.”
A city council spokesperson added: “Throughout 2019, the council’s outreach service worked with 165 identified rough sleepers on the streets of Exeter and a further 109 whose identity was unknown or chose not to engage.
“In 2018/19, a total of 188 people used the night shelter, with over 50 moving on to more suitable accommodation, preventing them from further spells of homelessness and rough sleeping.
“From October 2019 to the start of February, 100 people have accessed the night shelter.”