By LOUISE THOMASON
Finding a place to live can be a challenge and Shetland’s housing shortages mean that, often, accommodation is less suitable than it could be.
However, for the 12 new tenants at Arheim, Lerwick, this is not the case, as their needs have been catered for specifically.
Arheim is the newest development from Shetland Islands Council’s Independent Living Project. Situated in the Sound area of the town, below Quoys, the housing complex offers accommodation to adults who need support due to learning disabilities or being on the autistic spectrum.
There are 12 flats altogether, nine one-bedroom flats, two two-beds and a staff base, which includes a bedroom for night stay staff and a living area, which tenants can also use as a meeting place.
Built in a cluster formation and with views over the Sands of Sound and Lerwick, the flats were designed with tenants’ needs in mind. Project manager Heather Moncrieff said the team were extremely proud of their achievements.
She said: “It’s a collaboration between Hjaltland and the SIC’s Independent Living Project, who met with tenants and social care staff and designed it with the needs and wishes of the tenants.”
Outside, a Created Spaces project, which some of the tenants took part in, makes the most of the shared outdoor space. Featuring a walk way and a circular area for planting, the concrete slabs have been etched using an acid wash process, with designs by tenants.
Included is a poem written by a tenant who participated in the Created Spaces workshop. There are also plans to include a water feature and seating area.
The flats themselves are spacious and modern and feature a good sized bedroom, living room with sea views, a connected kitchen and a spacious bathroom. They also have a large heating room which houses the boiler and is so large that it could easily double as a study or extra room.
An underfloor heating and a heat recovery system, whereby heat from any room in the flat, say the kitchen or bathroom, is evenly distributed throughout the home should keep bills to a minimum and is also environmentally friendly.
The buildings have a secure controlled door entry system for both the staff and the public to access the accommodation. The fire alarms are all linked to the staff base to ensure optimum safety.
Ms Moncrieff said that the contractors, Elphinstone and Howarth, were extremely helpful: “They went out of their way to co-operate with the tenants’ needs.”
The homes are rented from Hjaltland just like any other accommodation and are allocated using the SIC’s needs-based system. Tenants then have to cover their own bills and take care of their own cooking and cleaning.
Although there are staff at hand to assist the tenants, the emphasis is on support rather than care and promoting the independence of the tenants, many of whom will never have had the opportunity to live alone before.
This is the case for new tenant Lynn Halcrow, originally from Cunningsburgh. She was sharing with three others previously and will be moving into the supported mobility flat.
She said she was very excited to have her own place and be living on her own. “[I’ve] never done it before, I’m very excited.”
Ms Moncrieff said the accommodation aims to provide a different basis of accommodation “It’s support rather than care. There’s an aspect of risk enablement to allow tenants to learn from experience and develop skills which will eventually allow them to move in to completely independent accommodation. Two tenants are learning to drive, for example.”
The accommodation also supports employment opportunities as access to places of employment, such as Cope, is not always available outwith the town.
All of the flats have now been allocated and the first tenant moved into the new accommodation in March and the last is due to enter at the end of May.
SIC head of community care Christine Ferguson said: “I think it’s great. It’s exciting to see it open after all the work that’s gone into it. There’s a fantastic staff team and it’s a great development. It’s also great to see it built as part of the community. It’s the way it should be.”
Comments from the tenants are very positive. Maria Scollay, from Yell, said: “It’s good. I really like it here. It’s a nice place to live.”
Margaret Hunter, from Unst, said: “I think it’s great.”
Natasha Hunter, from Lerwick, said: “You get a tenancy to yourself and it’s more quiet. It’s good, there’s more space. The staff is great.
“I thought it would be peerie flats but there’s lots of space. And the help you can get means it’s better [than living elsewhere].”