Hotel owner opens his doors to feed and house homeless during lockdown
A MILFORD hotelier has thrown open the doors of his establishment to put a roof over the heads of displaced and homeless New Forest people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tim Wedgwood is currently hosting 16 occupants having opened up all 26 rooms at the South Lawn hotel, which overlooks the Solent and is also a wedding and conference venue.
The hotel serves each resident two meals per day and district council staff are visiting daily to check on the new residents’ welfare. Some of those staying there include a family who had to move out of their home because it caught fire.
Tim (52) said: “These are vulnerable people who need some help and it’s a really positive thing that we can help out and they can get help from us.
“They are living on the premises at the moment and have been extremely respectful to the hotel and a pleasure to have staying here.
“We have always stuck to the principle that if you treat others with respect they will treat you with respect and it’s worked very well up until now.”
Tim lives at the Lymington Road hotel with his business and life partner Nicki Rowe. The pair volunteered their services to NFDC.
They had already opted to keep the hotel’s kitchen open serve takeaway meals to vulnerable people within the community, and in the past have worked with other local councils.
The majority of the group have been at the hotel for at least a fortnight, Tim said, adding the guests can stay in rooms or in their vehicles on the driveway. They abide by social distancing rules and meals are brought to them and left outside their doors.
“These are people that the council are responsible for housing. But the majority of places the council would normally use to house them – such as a Travelodge and so forth – are shut,” Tim said.
“So the council hasn’t got anywhere to place these people. We suggested we could help since it is easy for us to play host and the hotel is near to what a B&B would provide for them.
“We have a chef who can provide food – plus we are already providing a takeaway service for people within the village. Over the Easter weekend we cooked and delivered more than 300 hot meals for people who otherwise would not have been able to enjoy a Sunday roast.
“They must be from the NFDC area and we have a wide range of people staying, aged from their teens to someone in their 60s.
“They don’t just turn up – they have to go through the council’s veto system that they would normally employ anyway to be able to decide if they are classed as vulnerable.”
A hotelier for more than two decades, Tim’s early career included a stint at Grosvenor House on Park Lane in London, where he worked with celebrities and royalty.
He added: “We have also got a number of volunteers from Milford village working with the hotel right now to help out the community and deliver food and that sort of thing. They all know about our work with NFDC and think it is a really great gesture.”
A spokeswoman for NFDC said the help offered by South Lawn Hotel was helping it meet “additional housing challenges and demand”.
In the lead-up to the lockdown on 23rd March, the council worked with Viespace and other private landlord partners to increase access to an additional 20 fully furnished rooms for single-person accommodation.
The council was continuing to provide “outreach support” to vulnerable people across the district at South Lawn Hotel and at other temporary accommodation, the spokesperson continued.
She clarified that no early-release prisoners were at South Lawn Hotel – but admitted the council had held discussions with the probation service about an upcoming early-release programme.
She added: “However, there are no immediate plans for this to include releases to the New Forest district.”
People at risk of homelessness can call NFDC on 023 8028 5234.