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NICK PANNELL: With 7,000 hotel beds, if Torbay can't provide 24 beds for members of our own community in a crisis, it is a crying shame

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 13, 2013

symbol:  Nick Pannell outside the Leonard Stocks Centre in Factory Row

symbol: Nick Pannell outside the Leonard Stocks Centre in Factory Row

Comments (15)

IF EVER there were a symbol of Torbay's compassion for our destitute it is the hostel in Factory Row.

It opened 20 years ago because of a crisis on our streets. Local churches worked with Torbay Council, community groups and charities to provide a single male dormitory for rough sleepers.

Three years ago the ramshackle buildings were demolished and a purpose-built homeless hostel erected on the site costing £3million. The Leonards Stocks Centre, is now a flagship project, with 24 rooms for men and women. It is always full, often with a waiting list, doing amazing work to help vulnerable people back into stable lives.

And yet this wonderful centre, which has seen so much community investment, is facing closure because the mayor will not provide sufficient funds.

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The news is devastating because in a single act of social vandalism, a frontline service which is genuinely life-saving will end. Where will people go? What will the route out of homelessness be in future? Where will recovery start? You can't begin to address alcohol addiction, mental health problems and family breakdown while living in a cardboard box.

The closure of the hostel will just result in chaos for other services. With the safety net gone, rough sleepers will end up in A&E, police custody, psychiatric units and residential homes. All of these are far more expensive than a room at a hostel.

The mayor has to make savings, but this a false economy. The mayor is keen to 'clean-up the town', but this will lead to more crime, street drunkenness and the depressing sight of people camping in doorways.

Last winter a rough sleeper died in Totnes and another in Exeter.

I fear the mayor has been influenced by those who from the day the hostel opened 20 years ago have willed its closure. One of the reasons the Friends of Factory Row was founded was to encounter the endless ill-informed prejudice towards our client group. One night, many years ago, a gang of youths surrounded it, banging on windows shouting 'paedos, druggies' and a familiar chant: 'go back to where you came from'.

But overwhelmingly, hostel residents are from Torbay (you cannot get in without a local connection) and they are from all walks of life. There is no stereotype and yet the abuse continues.

So what happens now? The Friends of Factory Row will be playing a central part in mobilising support for the hostel. Next week we will be launching our Torbay SOS (Save Our Services) campaign.

I know those who care about social justice in Torbay will join us, across the political divide and across the denominations. In the words of the old hymn: "We shall overcome."

In a holiday resort of 7,000 hotel rooms, if Torbay can't provide 24 beds for members of our own community in a crisis, it is a crying shame.

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  • xschemer66  |  January 18 2014, 7:15AM

    @ those NEGATIVE RATED COMMENTS ABOVE MINE. Kind of says something eh! There have always been 'problem' people and there always will be. A recession and government cuts inflates the problem and thats where we are now. You cant just throw vulnerable people into the gutter. They have feelings like anyone else. Some comments are vicious and with little thought. Put yourself in there shoes and you will realise how lucky you are. I dont have much of a life, my taxes go towards helping vulnerable people. But i dont ***** and holler about it. I get on with my life. Its sad that others cant.

    Rate 0
  • BetinaBooty  |  December 18 2013, 11:32PM

    The Herald support this doss house for addicts, criminals and sex offenders, the vast majority brought here from other towns and cities. They will line up the staff, a few middle managers, suzy colley and darren cowell, bus a few liberals down from the affluent areas of Torquay ( well away from castle circus ) and headline the piece "residents of Torquay protest", but the residents of Torquay are no longer taken in by the Herald. The residents of Torquay are sick of being lied to and misled.

    Rate   -36
  • 10fs09as48  |  December 18 2013, 8:40PM

    @xschemer66 - well, at least you have 20 supporters (score rating on anyone against this proposal) to keep you company in your protest - shame it won't make the slightest difference.

    Rate   -35
  • DickEddington  |  December 14 2013, 5:05PM

    Start taking some action against this criminal haven Oliver, or UKIP will be sitting in all your seats by the end of 2014.

    Rate   -36
  • 10fs09as48  |  December 14 2013, 4:23PM

    @ xschemer66 - protest all you like! The majority of Torquay resident's don't want them here. Most of the 24 inmates of the hostel, who contribute NOTHING to the local economy, just alienate the local community by hanging around the shops at castle circus causing ASB, moving between the Job centre, the pub and the law courts ('the inebriates triangle'), getting drunk or high each time they get their benefit cheque. Compare these 24 with the 50+ council employees who will be losing their jobs in March 2014 due to cuts - these 50+ people work and live in the Bay, are tax payers and have mortgages, with the families that go to school in the Bay. Through their jobs they support many, many OTHER troubled families in Torbay - when these jobs are cut - who will support these other deserving families made up of children and adults? If you want to protest - make sure you get your fact correct - its the government who are causing these cuts - not local Councils.

    Rate   -36
  • DickEddington  |  December 14 2013, 12:30AM

    The only people protesting outside the council offices will be the staff employed at Factory Row and the middle managers making huge sums of money from the tax payer. And people bused in from their nice middle class suburbs. The local people of Torquay will throw a party. We want our town and our streets back.

    Rate   -38
  • xschemer66  |  December 13 2013, 11:41PM

    Sorry about the repeated text below. Not easy writing on a mobile!

    Rate 0
  • xschemer66  |  December 13 2013, 11:38PM

    Disgusted by the narrow minded nimbys. Ok, it could be in an out of town location, seeing as some of its residents would get a free bus pass. But you will find the majority are people already from Torbay, that have fallen through the safety net. I personally know 4 people who have stayed there in the last year. Only one of them was from upcountry. He left his home town, no fault of his. During his 3 week stay, he found a fulltime job and found himself a flat. Worked for him. As for other residents...the need the lifeline of being able to live, survive or get better at their own pace. One young lady who stayed there for 6 months or so, is now back in a flat, but she is almost beyond help. Her life is As for other residents...the need the lifeline of being able to live, survive or get better at their own pace. One young lady who stayed there for 6 months or so, is now back in a flat, but she is almost beyond help. She will never have the chance of a decent life. She is just one LOCAL person who needs the Factory Row building to remain open. Because she will fall many more times in her future. SHAME ON THE MAYOR. ITS CRUELTY AT CHRISTMAS. STUMP UP THE CASH OR I FORSEE A PROTEST OUTSIDE THE COUNCIL OFFICES.

    Rate   27
  • DickEddington  |  December 13 2013, 5:20PM

    It would make an ideal backpackers hotel. They would pay their own way and not rely on yet more public handouts, and for what, to fill our streets with addicts, sex offenders and criminals.

    Rate   -41
  • DickEddington  |  December 13 2013, 5:08PM

    I only deal in facts and the truth. This place admits people mainly from other areas who have migrated here to use the facilities by the sea on benefits. Local connections are largely manufactured in order to secure local funding. It brings problems here, it solves nothing, it costs a lot to the tax payer. Local residents are sick of the place and the social problems it causes. Liberals who live further away love it. It makes them feel better about themselves.

    Rate   -41