In the 3 months since the £750,000 Howard House opened at the former Barton Primary School site, Councillor Geoff Brodie said he has seen levels of anti-social behaviour, drink and drug abuse, noise and disturbance all increase in his ward of Pan and Barton.
Howard House is the Island’s only homeless assessment hub, led by the Salvation Army, providing accommodation for up to 17 people; moving away, the Isle of Wight Council says, from traditional models of support.
Initially, Cllr Brodie had spoken with nearby residents to ensure they were happy with the hub opening and received no objection.
Speaking at the council’s planning committee meeting earlier this week, when the controversial Castle Road homeless recovery house of multiple occupancy application was discussed, Cllr Brodie shared issues that have occurred since it opened.
He said nearby residents had seen drunks falling into gardens and vomiting to incidents where police were called. On one occasion, Cllr Brodie said a man who was ‘clearly disturbed with complex needs’ created an individual riot where people were scared to leave their homes.
Despite being the police station being 300 metres away, Cllr Brodie said it took police 4-and-a-half hours to respond.
Hampshire Constabulary said it was called to a public order incident where staff were threatened and damaged caused. A person was also assaulted outside the building. A police spokesperson said the 43-year-old man continued to act aggressively, exposed himself and made racist comments until police arrived approximately 4 hours later. They said officers were sent to Howard House earlier but diverted to a higher priority incident.
A spokesperson for the force added:
“Following the incident at Howard House, we conducted a review of our response and have met with partners to discuss how we can support residents and local community.
“Moving forward, the local Neighbourhoods Policing Team will be regularly patrolling this area and engaging with Howard House.”
Cllr Brodie said this all happens despite the round-the-clock staffing and the council’s response had not been great. He said:
“I can deal with things, I am a tough guy, but this has given me more grief, social media responses, emails, phone calls, stopping me in the street. I have never known something quite like this.
“I have to ensure it is properly managed and that the agencies deal with the issues.”
The Isle of Wight Council says in the past 10 weeks, a small number of incidents had led to community concerns. A spokesperson said some were not linked to Howard House but where challenges had been highlighted, action has already been taken in collaboration with partners. They said:
“The information, feedback and complaints received are being used to shape the service and to ensure that it is not only supportive of the people who are accessing the service, but also the local community. Regular community engagement events are planned.
“The Howard House we know today will not be the same in the future as we will learn and change. We are hoping to add additional support services within Howard House as it evolves.”
Due to all the issues at Howard House, Cllr Brodie said his view on the Castle Road HMO had completely changed, welcoming the 3-year probation period as protection for residents, which those in Pan and Barton were not afforded.