The vacant Council owned city centre building, Bond House, in Bond Street, is now known as Peter Bilson House following an official ceremony at the centre attended by the Mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Sandra Samuels OBE, City of Wolverhampton Council councillors and senior officers, and city homelessness partners.
Son James and wife Audrey, daughter Emma and husband Chris, along with Peter’s 6 grandchildren looked on as Peter’s widow, Nicky, unveiled the naming plaque which will sit proudly at the entrance of Peter Bilson House.
The building has been transformed into additional accommodation and a space for multi-agency support for vulnerable people and people with a history of rough sleeping. Wolverhampton Housing and Homeless Service, P3, will lead operations when it opens to clients in April 2023.
Peter, who sadly passed away in February 2020, aged 66, was a councillor for the Bushbury South and Low Hill ward, and served Wolverhampton for nearly four decades after being first elected in 1982.
He was the Deputy Leader of the Council and as the Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing was a major driving force in tackling the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping in the city. He was also proud to serve as Mayor of Wolverhampton at the turn of the Millennium when city status was granted.
Peter Bilson House will provide 34 units of accommodation, including six accessible apartments, and will be the location for the Single Persons Accommodation Project. It includes emergency accommodation and settled accommodation units, and will offer bespoke, multi agency support for the vulnerable people living in the units.
This approach will allow people to live safe and independent lives with the backing of arms-length support as and when required.
Nicky Bilson said: “All the family are delighted to be here today. We are so very proud of all Peter’s achievements and of the legacy he leaves.
“It is a great honour to see his name on this new supported centre and it would have filled him with great pride.“
City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “This is a fitting tribute for a man who strove all his life to make a difference to people who needed support.
“Peter Bilson House is a fitting legacy for Peter, who dedicated nearly 4 decades to public service.
“I was proud to work alongside Peter for many years and I am thrilled to see his name associated with this important new centre which will continue the great work that was so close to his heart.”
Councillor Bhupinder Gakhal, the Council’s Cabinet Member for City Assets and Housing, said: “Peter was devoted to the City of Wolverhampton and its people and it is an honour for me to be able to build on the lasting legacy he left in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping.
“This is a fitting tribute to a great man who did so much for the city and Peter Bilson House will help us transform the lives of vulnerable people.
“I’d also like to thank the hard work of officers, Wolverhampton Homes and our contractors, Wates, who have all worked tirelessly to deliver the project on time.
“Here in Wolverhampton we are making real changes to help rough sleepers rebuild their lives. And whether that is through bricks and mortar or emotional and practical support, we want to offer the best we can.
“Working with our partners, we have a clear message that no-one needs to sleep out on our city streets. We are determined to tackle homelessness and this new accommodation will further strengthen our homeless support.”
The idea for the centre was sparked by lessons learnt from the success of supporting Wolverhampton’s homeless people through the ‘Everyone In’ initiative during the coronavirus outbreak.
That initiative saw partners in the multi agency Homelessness Taskforce pool their resources at one location – a city centre hotel – to safeguard individuals from the streets.
The facility helped more than 100 people either facing the threat of homelessness or who were rough sleeping to successfully move on from the city’s emergency shelter into long term safe, suitable, and sustainable accommodation.
Peter Bilson House will include security and concierge presence on site 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, something that was integral to the success of the emergency provision during ‘Everyone In’ and will ensure that the site is secure and residents are safe at all times.
It will also provide 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 will be affordable and will allow people to be in employment, which is not always possible in traditional supported accommodation.
Funding has come from a mixture of council spending and Government grants, with the project developed following consultation and best-practice learning from residents, volunteers, staff and partners.
For details on how to contact support services to help those experiencing rough sleeping, visit Rough sleeping.
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)