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Arbroath residents stunned by homeless unit news

By Nash Riggins, 7 November 2013 11.00am.

Angus Council is currently considering shutting down an “invaluable” homeless unit.

Residents and councillors have hit out after the authority said it was reviewing the future of the Guthrie Hill facility in Arbroath.

News of the potential closure surfaced after it was alleged the council had advised staff at Arbroath’s Guthrie Hill homeless unit to stop filling the shelter’s beds — even though the centre serves as the region’s only temporary accommodation unit for homeless individuals.

“From what I can tell, the unit is getting ready to close,” said long-time Angus resident and mother Margaret Williamson.

“Guthrie Hill usually houses between 17 and 20 homeless individuals, but the staff have actually been told they’re to stop trying to fill the beds — and when the rooms empty, they’re now leaving those rooms empty.”

Angus Council has blamed shrinking budgets due to welfare reforms for the review of housing services.

A spokeswoman said: “As part of our housing services review we are looking at how we make best use of all our assets, including our temporary and homeless accommodation in Arbroath.

“Our plans for the building at Guthrie Hill are still to be finalised, but options include converting it into mainstream one-bedroom accommodation, which is in high demand due to the need for down-sizing after the welfare reforms.”

Yet Arbroath councillor David Fairweather, who serves on both committees that would have to approve of the centre’s closure, was shocked to hear of the potential changes.

He said: “We’ve not seen any reports indicating a closure of this nature and I would certainly be extremely concerned if these allegations were true. That unit has been extremely valuable in the community to help homeless people — and Arbroath would be lost without it.”

Homelessness is certainly an issue in Angus. According to Shelter Scotland, there are currently 139 Angus households — including five children — living in temporary accommodation, such as bed-and-breakfasts. Last year, the charity classed 698 Angus households as being homeless.

Mrs Williamson added: “I’ve had sons that have been forced to stay at Guthrie Hill in the past and it’s invaluable. A lot of these people are homeless by no fault of their own. If Guthrie Hill closes, where are they supposed to go?”

Angus Council said dates for any major changes will be announced in due course.