Former Fife hotel once at heart of live music scene to become hostel for homeless
A former hotel in Leslie is to be turned into a hostel for the homeless.
The Christian social enterprise supporting the conversion says it will not leave people under the influence of drink or drugs to roam the streets.
The hostel will be based in the former Greenside Hotel.
Green Pastures - a charity that provides upfront financial support to Christian missions so they can operate homeless hostels in their local area - has fronted the purchase of the hotel on behalf of the New Hope Fellowship, based in Glenrothes.
It will allow the building to be turned into a support unit for homeless people in recovery from substance addiction and mental health issues.
The church will then pay a lease to the charity sourced from housing benefit claims made by its tenants.
Green Pastures, which has financed more than 75 other such projects across the UK since 1999, secured the building last month for a reported £200,000, and planning permission enabling the conversion was approved last week by Fife Council's central and west planning committee.
New Hope's project is geared towards recovery following a spell in rehab or a course of treatment for substance misuse or mental health issues, with tenants being offered counselling alongside lessons in life skills such as cooking, finance management and securing a tenancy.
Karl Reece, Scotland partnership manager with Green Pastures, said: "What has happened across the UK for years is that people come out of rehab and go straight into independent living, facing the same challenges they had before without a support network. They end up relapsing and needing rehab again.
"What we specialise in is actually going in between rehab and independent living and helping people, supporting them, through to the next step."
People will be able to live in the homeless hostel for as long as is necessary, with the long term goal of moving them onto a secure tenancy of their own or into a church-run flatshare.
During that time they will be supported by an army of support workers and volunteers.
Staff and facilities alike will be fully accredited by regulators such as the Scottish Social Services Council where required to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements of a service working with vulnerable people.
And if people in their care are in need of further treatment, they can be referred back to rehab or another specialist service.
Mr Reece says comments he had seen on social media about the Greenside plans had been "wide of the mark".
He believes people have misunderstood the hostel's mission to support people as they reintegrate into society.
"I've met with local members of the community that have used social media to express their concerns. Green Pastures and our partners know the importance we put on safety and security, and I think I've been able to reassure those I've met," he concluded.
"We listen, we care, and we're here for all.
Estate agents Graham and Sibbald, tasked with selling the Greenside, said the appetite for a hotel in the town was wavering - with the only "realistic offer" for the building coming from New Hope and Green Pastures.
Councillors debating its future last week lamented the loss of the hotel to the Leslie community.
Glenrothes Central and Thornton Labour member, Derek Noble, feared a "knock-on effect" to residential amenity - but SNP Leven, Kennoway and Largo rep David Alexander said it would be remiss of the council to knock back an application with good intentions in a town he said was once "Fife's pub crawl capital".
"We need to remember that on the committee we don't represent locals," Cllr Alexander said.
"We are here to ensure every planning application is dealt with in exactly the same way so be very, very careful: if this is refused for the wrong reasons and gets approved on appeal it will cost us thousands."
Heeding Cllr Alexander's warning Cllr Noble withdrew his plan to move refusal of the plans, and the application was approved unanimously.