The Camrose Centre is a four-year-old charity, although the project itself has existed since 2008, which provides a place for homeless and vulnerable housed people to shower, eat, change their clothes and be treated as people, having conversations and participating in activities.

Located in Glebe Hall behind St Michael’s Church in Basingstoke, the Camrose Centre is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am until 2pm, on Fridays from 10am until 12.30pm and Sundays between 12pm and 3pm for those who need help to check in.

The check-in process is quick and easy, inquiring after your name and housing situation, before tagging your bag with your name to store in a quiet room upstairs (for the safety of clients, staff and volunteers alike.) Even those who are drunk or high, and non-violent/ abusive, are allowed inside. Clients are offered a private 1-1 session with trained support workers in order to aid them in recovering from or avoiding the risks of homelessness. 

Mike Browning said: “Homelessness is not just about sleeping rough on street corners. Homelessness is about people who don’t have a home. Sleeping in a hostel is not a home. Sofa surfing is not a home. Our aim is to get people back into their own accommodation so they’ve got control over their own lives. So, homelessness is much more than rough sleep.

“Camrose is an organisation of local people working with local people, so please help us to help local people who are in need. We’re not part of a national organisation, about a quarter of our funding comes from the local authority. The rest is through fundraising. So it’s local people who are most important to us.”

There are currently approximately six members of staff, eight volunteers, and 2-3 support workers who run and help out in each session, but in total the Camrose Centre has around 30 volunteers!  the Camrose Centre experiences frequent visits from a podiatrist, a GP, and a barber, to ensure that clients of the Camrose Centre can get checkups and remain as healthy as they can.

The Camrose Centre and its supporters fund the presence of Corrine, who is a psychotherapist/ artist from ArtWell, who helps the clients create wonderful pieces of art which are often displayed around town.

One to look forward to is set to be hung in Tescos in Chineham around mid-February, set with the first names of consenting clients and a short blurb. This wonderful work can be seen on the street furniture and other areas in town, made in collaboration with energetic and sociable Corrine, who sets a theme for the piece and takes contributions from the group, which she likes to think of as a “group portrait” of sorts. 

The creativity and passion of everyone who works for, volunteers or supports the Camrose Centre is clear to see from a single look at the building. From the freezer which was donated and restocked every six months, to the disabled toilet converted into a wet room for clients to use.

Volunteering for Camrose Centre is seen to be a wonderful and enlightening experience and is a beautiful way to help out the local community. 

Jan Patterson, who has been with the charity for 15 years, said: “It’s just something I’ve always been interested in for so many years and I love coming here because it’s very rewarding. It can be very difficult but it’s so rewarding and it does make you appreciate that you can get what you need in a bag and take it home and it helps you to reach out to other people. But I enjoy the company and I’ve made many friends.”

Hot meals are served to clients at 12.30pm, and the staff/ volunteers can put together ‘48 hour packs’ for them to take, along with pointing them towards hot water stations. The 48-hour packs include instant noodles, cans of soup, specifically the kind with pull tabs, water, which is especially important during the summertime, and biscuits. These are handed out, along with the opportunity for clients to grab camping gear, fresh clothes, and toiletries- including women’s products.

To donate, supporters need to go to Glebe Hall to hand it in, but must keep in mind that Camrose

Hampshire Chronicle: Glebe Hall, the site of Camrose Centre Centre cannot accept anything alcoholic or with a short expiry date. Supporters should also keep in mind that the building only has so much storage space, and should check the Camrose Centre website and Facebook page for more information.

Clients find themselves at Camrose Centre through numerous ways - firstly, through the Social Inclusion Partnership of Camrose Centre which includes any organisation which interacts with homeless and vulnerably housed people. These 30-odd organisations across the borough are constantly communicating with each other, even outside of the quarterly meeting, so referral for clients is a large factor.

The clients themselves may come without a referral, having heard about Camrose Centre via word of mouth, be it in a church, social group, community centre, or any other group of people. Handouts can also be used to find Camrose Centre, be it a leaflet or a business card. 

Camrose Centre is, in itself, a clear example of the compassion and kindness that still exists in the community, and the loyalty and generosity of its supporters have a huge impact on many people’s lives and have for a long time. 

  • This article was written by Kaz W-B, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.