A homeless shelter in an old pub has been approved despite concerns from neighbours.
The Sisters of Mercy want to convert the Rising Sun in Seymour Road, Northfleet, into somewhere for up to 12 homeless people to live.
At a meeting last night, Gravesham council agreed work could now start.
Numerous objections were received, mainly over fears of what kind of person will live there and an increase in anti-social behaviour.
Gravesham council investigated rough sleepers in the borough and concluded that up to 10 people are on the streets each night.
The report before councillors stated: “It is explained that it will not be a hostel where people come to for one night for a bed, a meal and a wash and leave the following day. Instead, people will live at the hostel for up to six months where they will be assisted by social workers to gain employment and their own place to live for rehabilitation back into the community.”
The charity has two other properties in Gravesend – in Edwin Street and Hillside Drive – and the council says it has not caused problems in those areas. The Houses of Mercy will not allow arsonists, sex offenders and people with a history of violence to stay.
The Sisters of Mercy have a strict code that its tenants would need to observe, including no alcohol or drugs, including cigarettes.
James Carter, the solicitor acting on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, told the Messenger: “Memories are short, but last winter we had a very hard one and February was particularly cold. Everyone has a place in society, even the homeless.”
Referrals to the other two shelters can be made by the homeless themselves, any other agency, such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, and Gravesham council.
When we first reported news of the plans, a petition was set up and signed by hundreds of people, fearful that “paedophiles, ex-convicts, and people with problems” would be on their doorstep.
It quickly escalated when rumour spread across social media sites that it would be a halfway house for paedophiles and another petition was set up and signed by a further 365 people.
The report for councillors concluded: “There is widespread opposition to this application, primarily on grounds relating to fears that the use would increase crime and anti-social behaviour.
“It is notable, however, that the vast majority of this concern comes from a single petition rather than individually penned letters, and one local resident complains of being ‘pestered’ to sign the petition. As such this may not be truly representative of local opinion.
“The premises will be managed by the Sisters of Mercy who have been operating a similar property in Gravesend for over 20 years and to which no records of complaints are held by the borough council.”