No new homeless centre for Inverness
May 24th 2009
The current downturn in the property market will likely hold up the development of a new centre and flats for the homeless in Inverness.
Earlier in the year, councillors agreed to sell Huntly House, a 26-bed hostel formerly run by the Salvation Army. Money from the sale was to be used to finance developing a new advisory day-care centre and flats for the homeless. But in a bid to get the best possible price, the Highland Council is now holding off selling until market conditions improve.
Inverness Central Councillor Donnie Kerr agreed that selling Huntly House in the current market would not achieve the best price, but he voiced concerns about the options for the homeless in the city.
"The need for homeless accommodation right now is immediate but the funds are not there unless we dispose of this building," he said "We've had an increase in homeless applications and the council is finding it difficult to access homes in multiple occupation for them. Using bed and breakfasts is not as a long term solution."
In the past year, Huntly House has been empty, following the council's decision to withdraw funding from the project. Councillor Kerr has repeatedly raised concerns about it falling prey to vandalism in its current state.
He believes the building could be put to good use even while the property market recovers. The Church of Scotland's Inverness Presbytery was looking into the possibility of using local churches and church halls to provide night shelter and food for rough sleepers for two weeks in February.
Discussions about the pilot project are at an early stage but Councillor Kerr said he fully supported the idea and has written to Vivian Roden, convener of the presbytery's church and community committee.
A spokeswoman for the council said while the authority waited for the property market to recover it would continue to work on proposals for the new centre. The council's latest figures show 1063 people registered as homeless in Inverness between April 2007 and March 2008. This represents around half of all homeless people in the Highlands.