Homeless hostel faces closure

A resident of a hostel for homeless people with alcohol problems tells Helen Clifton why he's campaigning to keep it open

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A Manchester centre to help homeless people beat alcoholism has been earmarked for closure – less than 12 months after a £1.3 million refurbishment.

The residential Newbury House, in Victoria Park, could shut down after the government this February slashed the city’s £35.8 million Supporting People budget – designed to keep vulnerable people in accommodation – by 35 per cent, a final reduction of £8.6 million.

‘Unique facility’

Last year new training facilities were installed and major structural improvements carried out on the facility, a Grade II listed Victorian townhouse and former First World War hospital, which housed injured soldiers returning from France, Belgium and Gallipoli.

But over the next fortnight residents are to be consulted on its closure.

Recovered alcoholic Chris Hadfield, 57, from Stockport has lived in Newbury House since December last year.

He sought help following the loss of his social care job and two relationship breakdowns, which left him homeless and sleeping on friends’ couches.

“I have been drinking problematically since my thirties,” he said. “For me, it wasn’t about a recovery programme – it was specifically about rehab. I needed time and space. I was clinically depressed.

“Being here has given me the opportunity to address some of the underlying problems that I had.

“Newbury House offers a unique facility in that it offers a residential rehabilitation programme – and where else offers that?

“It will be a massive loss for the city of Manchester, and a massive potential loss for potential future residents.

“People are worried not just about the homeless aspect, they are worried about their sobriety being compromised. People have worked damn hard to get where they are. We feel that it has been badly handled.”

Good service

The service, which is run by Riverside ECHG housing association on behalf of Manchester City Council, accommodates 15 men and women. It has provided a specialist abstinence-based programme for those with alcohol problems for the last decade, and also gives residents skills to rebuild their lives.

Ardwick councillor Bernard Priest said: “I am as angry as anyone about the level of cuts made in Manchester. If there was any way I could say let’s not change Newbury House, I would. It’s a very good service provided for people who need it very much.

“Supporting People is an important budget but it’s being cut by 35 per cent within three months. What we have got to save is an enormous amount of money. We have asked Riverside ECHG for proposals as to how they can save that, and the proposal they have come up with is to close Newbury House and move the service somewhere else.

Supported housing

“It’s a very expensive service to maintain. It’s a beautiful listed building, and there may be cheaper ways to provide that service.

“But I am absolutely clear that the service needs to remain, and people must get the quality of service they have enjoyed in the past.”

A spokesperson for Riverside ECHG said it could not comment on Manchester City Council’s decision.

The spokesperson added: “Where we face cuts we will always seek to find the best way forward – by using our flexible staffing structure, finding alternative funding and by pursuing other business opportunities locally.”

As well as Newbury House, the cuts have forced Manchester City Council to review several other supported housing services.

Liz Bruce, strategic director of adults at Manchester City Council, said: “No final decisions have been made about individual services as we are still in the consultation period, and there will be a series of consultation events with residents this month.”

For more information contact savenewburyhouse@gmail.com

Photo of Chris Hadfield: Helen Clifton

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