A centre which provides rough sleepers across Wolverhampton with a route off the streets has marked its first anniversary.

Peter Bilson House opened in April 2023 after vacant council-owned offices were transformed into accommodation for rough sleepers and other people affected by homelessness.

It also provides a space where vulnerable people can receive multi-agency support.

The site – named after the late Councillor Peter Bilson – is already playing an important role in tackling rough sleeper levels, which have dropped to one of the lowest levels ever in the city.

The latest Government count put the number of rough sleepers in Wolverhampton at six, on October 26, 2023, down from 11 in November, 2022. It is a data snapshot taken once a year and based on a single night.

It means Wolverhampton is bucking a national trend that has seen a rise in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night for the second year in a row.

The centre, in Bond Street, is managed by social inclusion charity P3 on behalf of the City of Wolverhampton Council.

Councillors joined P3 staff, service users and other partners from across the city for an anniversary event at the centre to acknowledge the efforts of all involved.

City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “We strive to ensure no one has to sleep rough in Wolverhampton and places like Peter Bilson House offer those who want it, a safe route away from a life on the streets.

“The centre is already playing an important role in bringing rough sleeper levels down, which is something I’m sure everyone involved, including the family of Peter Bilson, will be rightfully proud of.

“Anybody who is currently sleeping out in Wolverhampton will have been offered accommodation and support. 

“Sometimes individuals refuse help or support, for many different reasons, but we will continue to work with anyone who is homeless through our dedicated outreach support.”

City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Steve Evans, said: “Peter Bilson House provides a stable environment from where people are fully supported to take the next step to move-on into suitable and affordable tenancies in the community.

“Peter Bilson was a voice for the vulnerable and it is fitting this is part of his legacy in Wolverhampton, the city he loved.”

The site consists of 22 self-contained flats, four emergency beds and a multi-agency hub suitable for workshops and meetings.

It also provides for other vulnerable groups, for example women experiencing homelessness or people who are made homeless but wish to find secure employment.

The rent and charges are affordable and allow people to be in employment, which is not always possible in traditional supported accommodation.

Residents also have access to everything from assistance in locating training, voluntary opportunities and employment to health care assistance and benefits support.

Service Co-ordinator at P3 Wolverhampton, Stephanie Holland, said: “Peter Bilson House encourages people to return to work because it is situated in the heart of the city. It is also close to the bus and train station. 

“This has benefited many individuals and over the past year we have had a number of successful move-ons. 

“One person succeeded in landing a sales job, climbing the ladder through promotions, and reunited with their family in Ethiopia, something they had thought was only a pipe dream.

“Other residents have met new partners or made new connections with relatives living nearby, moving in together and starting families. 

“Staff have watched their motivation grow and watched them blossom into better versions of themselves.

“Peter Bilson House has achieved a lot in the past year and we will be striving for more in the future.

“We are currently finishing off a well-being garden to give tenants somewhere safe and quiet to relax in the summer.”

Peter Bilson was a former City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Mayor who served the city for nearly four decades.

In his role as Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing Councillor Bilson ¬– who represented Bushbury South and Low Hill – was a champion of efforts to tackle homelessness before he died aged 66 in 2020.

His widow Nicky Bilson and family unveiled a plaque at the centre when it opened last year and she returned for the first anniversary event.

Nicky said: “All of the family are very proud of Peter's achievements and it was a great honour to see his name given to this centre last year. 

“Now to come back and see the wonderful work being done there 12 months on gives us all great satisfaction.”

For details on how to contact support services to help those experiencing rough sleeping, visit Rough sleepers | City Of Wolverhampton Council

People can also help the homeless and rough sleepers by donating money or volunteering time, skills or products via the city’s Alternative Giving Charity at Home - Alternative Giving CIO (wolverhamptonchange.co.uk).