A homeless shelter in Audenshaw is to be relocated after hundreds of residents petitioned for it to be moved.
The shelter at the old library building next to Ryecroft Hall is part of the Mayor’s ‘A Bed Every Night Scheme’ and opened last winter as a 9pm-9am service.
Beds and supplies were taken to the building during the week before Christmas, but nobody was accommodated until the new year.
However, around three months ago, it turned into a 24-hour operation and local residents have since reported a number of problems including fighting, drug dealing and intimidating behaviour from those using the shelter.
Local resident Janice Bardsley said: “I used to take my grandchildren to Ryecroft Park but I don’t take them anymore. My grandson saw someone urinating in the bushes and asked me what he was doing. I’ve never gone there since. We walk the dogs around Ryecroft in the morning and it feels unsafe.”
Another resident, Andrew Wilding, added: “Since the shelter has been there, we’ve seen drug dealing outside our house and been gestured to. We’ve rang the police and they’ve told us to report it but nothing is happening. We walk the dog along the canal; people are hanging around there drinking and we’ve seen people fighting.”
At a packed resident’s meeting at Ryecroft Hall on earlier this month, locals were told that the council now plans to move the shelter after discussions with Audenshaw’s ward councillors, who delivered two petitions to the council with a combined 900 signatures.
The majority of residents agreed that the problem isn’t with the ABEN service; it’s with the location of the shelter. Some expressed anger that the shelter was imposed on the community, without residents or even local councillors being told about it in advance.
Two homeless men currently using the shelter, Dave and Andrew, attended the meeting to defend their side. “I apologise for a few bad eggs, we’re trying to calm it down,” Dave told the meeting. “We’re sorry but we’ve got nowhere else to go.”
Speaking to the Tameside Reporter after the meeting, Dave said he believes the situation has been blown out of proportion, and that there has been abuse on both sides, adding that ABEN has been his lifeline.
“The way the residents around here treat us is disgusting,” he said. “We put up with some major abuse. We get called all sorts. The residents are more concerned about the value of their property going down. There are some malicious lies that have been made. There are a few bad eggs in there, but that happens in every walk of life. We can’t control everyone but we’re all getting tarred with the same brush.
“The service is brilliant. I’ve been using ABEN since the end of February because I lost my job. I’ve got a new one now and I’m saving up. If I hadn’t had that service since February, I’d probably be dead.”
A report has now gone through council, outlining plans to move the shelter to a more suitable location by the end of August.
The report also states that residents are carefully selected for the Ryecroft site, in an attempt to ensure only the most settled individuals stay there until they can be rehoused.
“There are currently a number of empty and unused nursing homes within the borough,” the report reads. “These homes could provide a suitable location for the service, providing the locations are deemed appropriate & the buildings are fit for purpose.”
Andrew, who has been using the shelter for a fortnight, said that while moving it will solve the problem in Audenshaw, it will simply become a problem elsewhere.
“You’re going to get the same thing wherever you go,” he said. “The people that I’ve seen down on the canal are not even staying at the shelter. That’s my biggest bugbear. They’re blaming us for the people that actually live round here. The shelter is the easy place to blame.”
Audenshaw councillor Charlotte Martin told the meeting that local police have received more official complaints about local youths than the homeless, but the room was in agreement that the location of the shelter was an issue and it had to be moved.
Councillor Oliver Ryan said after the meeting: “I think it’s been difficult for residents around Ryecroft Hall to deal with having the facility in the old library. I think what we’ve all agreed on though, is that the ABEN service itself is really good. Our problem here is that the location just isn’t helpful to the area. It’s right next to a children’s play park and there are issues with the security of the building.”
During the meeting, some residents also expressed concern that the problems will continue until the end of August, including the upcoming summer holidays for their children.
“There is more security on to make sure that not only are the homeless guys safe, but the residents are safe,” Oliver added. “People abuse the homeless, so when they’re left in facilities like this and they’re out during the day, they are targeted. They are quite vulnerable people. There will be more security throughout the day and we’ll work to make sure the park and surrounding area is kept tidy and clean.”