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Winchester hostel 'seeing positive results'
A £47,000 project has helped Winchester Churches Nightshelter improve its services, its AGM heard.
The charity has been upgrading its Jewry Street hostel over the past year and is seeing positive results, according to directors.
Sarah Lloyd, chairman of the directors, said: “Our building project saw us able to expand our bed places, have a new IT area, change office equipment and completely update our facilities. “We have been able to concentrate our support work and help to prepare and equip our guests to move on and enable them to build up their independence and social networks.”
Manager Michele Price added: “It's made a big difference having two extra beds and we have been full 90 per cent of the time which is absolutely excellent.”
Despite the improvements, the shelter turned away 439 guests last year, around three times its total visitors, because it did not have room.
But the shelter was able to move 100 people on to new homes, with 53 entering supported housing, 16 into private rental homes and 31 returning home or living with friends and family.
Only seven guests were asked to leave while eight were taken into custody.
Financially, the charity enjoyed a good year, generating a profit of around £37,000. The packed meeting at St Peter's Church Centre, Jewry Street, also heard from former service users who have moved on to new accommodation.
Former soldier Chris Jarvis, who moved to Winchester from Sheffield after leaving the forces, said he had to go to the shelter after landlords refused to accept him as a tenant unless he was in full-time employment earning £21,000, per year, even though the Royal British Legion offered to cover his costs until he found a job.
He said: “When I got to the Nightshelter I knew what I needed to do. I started doing voluntary work with the cathedral and then the Trinity Centre and built up a support network.
“I have now moved into a place in Aldershot for ex-military personnel but if it wasn't for the Nightshelter or Trinity Centre I would not be where I am today.”
The meeting also heard from homeless charities including Emmaus and Keystone, while city council housing options & support manager Steve Tong also addressed the crowd of 80-plus and said the council was working hard to tackle homelessness in Winchester.
He said: “We will benefit from a major project with charity CRISIS with a pilot scheme to tackle problems moving into private rented accommodation. The difficulty is the accommodation that is out there is so competitive that the clients we are talking about don't get a look in. “We are going to be talking to key parties in supported housing so we can come up with a project that will go some way to helping that problem.”
He added a 'wet shelter' for homeless alcoholics and drug users was still being considered but was no closer to being set up.
Mr Tong said: “It's not gone away as an issue but I need to make sure I get a full comprehensive understanding from all the agencies in Winchester of the need in the city. Then after that it will become a question for the politicians.”