Shrewsbury hotel once more offering shelter to the homeless during lockdown

The Prince Rupert Hotel in Butcher Row has been providing shelter for the homeless
The Prince Rupert Hotel in Butcher Row has been providing shelter for the homeless

The Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury is offering to take in homeless people during the present lockdown.

Owner Mike Matthews said he had been in talks with Shropshire Council, and was this week expecting to provide accommodation for up to 18 people who had been sleeping rough.

The four-star hotel reopened for general business following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in July, but continued to provide support for vulnerable people.

Mr Matthews said the majority of them left after being found alternative accommodation, but nine were still staying at the hotel at the start of the latest lockdown on Thursday.

And he said the hotel had started taking in a number of new people over the past few days, adding that the 70-room hotel had space for plenty more.

He said the hotel last week took in a 20-year-old woman who had been sleeping on a friend’s sofa.

“She is a delightful young lady who has just hit on hard times,” said Mr Matthews.

“She had been working in retail, but lost her job because of the coronavirus, and obviously with the lockdown sofa-surfing is not allowed.”

He said another new guest had been living on the streets for 45 years, and had been living under a tree in the south of England before hearing a report on the radio featuring one of guests who had been staying at the hotel.

Hannah French was one of the homeless people who stayed at the Prince Rupert during the previous lockdown

Mr Matthews said he had already given one of the former homeless residents, Neil Pafford, a job in the hotel as a chef, and a second man was set to take up a similar role once the business reopened to the public.

“It turned out that Neil had worked as a chef about 20 years ago, so I suggested he could try doing a few shifts here, no obligation, just to see if he liked it, and he thought it was fantastic,” he said.

“We have taken him on full time, then we found another one of our guests had been a head chef in some very good restaurants. Once things return to normal we are going to do the same with him.”

Mr Matthews said he expected the number of people finding themselves on the streets to rise as more people lose their jobs. While the four-week lockdown is due to end on December 2, Mr Matthews said he expected to be accommodating homeless people at least until Christmas.

He said he hoped others in the hospitality industry would provide similar support.

Laura Fisher, Shropshire Council’s manager for housing and occupational therapy, said the hotel, and other hotels and guest houses had done a first-class job in accommodating rough sleepers.

“Current figures show we have 15 homeless people on our streets, but are working with local hotels and The Shrewsbury Ark to ensure we offer accommodation to all of these,” she said.

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