Decision-makers to visit controversial Sunderland homeless hostel site

Coun. Barbara McClennan outside Oakwood House, Mowbray Road, Sunderland, where plans to open as a hostel have angered residents
Coun. Barbara McClennan outside Oakwood House, Mowbray Road, Sunderland, where plans to open as a hostel have angered residents
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PLANS to re-open a controversial hostel have been put on hold until it is visited by councillors.

Oakwood House in Hendon came under fire when it was run by charity Centrepoint from 2008 to 2012.

Residents complained young people living at the shelter in Mowbray Road swigged booze, had sex in the street, and swore and abused people – resulting in 186 police calls in just one month.

Centrepoint attracted 200 objections when it first opened in Oakwood House before moving to a £1million base in Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth, in 2012.

Now a bid has been made to reopen the building, which has also been used as a nursing home and student accommodation.

Forever Care has submitted proposals to Sunderland City Council to open a 15-bed House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO), with an extension housing eight young people aged 12 to 17.

But councillors at meeting of the Sunderland City Council Sunderland South planning committee raised concerns over the two planning applications and voted to carry out a site visit.

Millfield member Councillor Bob Price said: “I am extremely worried about these two buildings being together. I feel extremely uncomfortable about that.”

Councillor Rosalind Copeland added: “I don’t think this is going to work. Having very vulnerable children with a transient population coming in an out, I think you are putting these eight children at risk.”

Centre manager Phil Stobart said the children would be victims of physical or sexual abuse from around the North East.

He said: “These are young people that might have issues, but nothing of the nature or severity of the residents when it was Centrepoint.

“We try to make their lives as normal as possible and the home as comfortable as possible.”

The care firm said it will not accept adult tenants with addictions or a criminal record that has included serious violent crime, sexual offences and arson. The proposal also promises the two facilities will be separated by locked doors, staffed round the clock, drugs and alcohol will be banned.

Ward councillor Barbara McClennan raised objections at the meeting on behalf of residents.

She said: “Sadly, this building is better known as the former Centrepoint base and in that guise brings with it significant baggage, which has left residents in real fear about future plans for the building.

“Children placed in this home are likely to be among the most troubled and vulnerable in society.

“Residents are desirous that their vulnerability is reduced - not increased - by being placed in a building which is suitable for their needs.

“Integrating it into a complex which offers 15 beds to ‘homeless’ people will not do that.”

The site visit is expected to take place before May’s local elections.