A £50,000 project to create a base for the homeless to receive hot meals, clean clothes, safe storage and help gain employment is being launched by Grantham Passage.
The charity which has been helping the homeless since 2001 by providing daily hot meals at many of Grantham’s churches, are now looking to set up their own dedicated site.
The need has become clear to chair of the charity and its umbrella organisation Grantham Poverty Concern Ruby Stuckey, who said: “In about two years the number of homeless people we’re seeing has doubled. There are lots of reasons why, but one of the main problems is the change in benefits.”
The rise noticed by Grantham Passage volunteers is supported by figures from Public Health England’s 2013 profile of South Kesteven, which revealed that the levels of statutory homelessness in the district were the highest in Lincolnshire, and have increased annually for the past four years.
Accordingly, Grantham Passage are responding to the greater number of homeless people with plans to provide a building specifically designed for their needs.
The premises chosen is a building currently used for storage at the back of St Mary’s Church on North Parade, which does not need a change of use application as all church property is classed as for community use.
Once completed, which they hope will be by the end of next year, the building will include a kitchen to cook hot meals as well as showers and washing machines so that visitors can smarten up before interviews.
Indeed helping the homeless get back into work is one of the main aims of the project, with computers also planned at the site.
“Everything is being put online - jobs and benefit forms - and many homeless people have no access to a computer,” adds Mrs Stuckey.
As well as planning future fundraising events, the charity hope that local businesses will get involved with the project, which they estimate will cost in the region of £50,000.
They have already set aside some money towards the work, and are also receiving funds from the town’s branch of Sainsbury’s having been chosen as their charity of the year.
Co-ordinator of the project Mike Monaghan said: “It is great to have this support, especially given the perception homelessness sometimes gets.
“It is not all to do with drug and alcohol abuse. That is there in some cases, but many are homeless because of problems with their family or employment.”
Mrs Stuckey agrees: “Many have just fallen through the cracks of society.”
Among those coming in for a hot meal at St Mary’s this week were Angela Ford, aged 51 and 49-year-old David Scott, who are currently sleeping under a tree in Wyndham Park since being evicted from their home in Caythorpe.
Hearing about the project, Angela said: “That’s what we need. There are computers at the library, but it isn’t always open.”
The scheme would also help 57-year-old Michael Townsend’s search for work. He turned up to Grantham Passage dressed in a suit, because he has being going to lots of interviews.
While Michael admits that alcohol played a part in becoming unemployed and homeless in 2009, he said: “Since then I have done lots of volunteering, at Barnado’s and the British Red Cross shops in town.”
However he is now worried that he will have to go to Lincoln as there is a shortage of job allocations in Grantham.
“I don’t want to go as my brother is in Grantham Hospital and is about to be transferred to Queen’s Medical Centre.”
They are just a handful of the many people Grantham Passage have helped, and Mr Monaghan added: “We’re about giving a hand up, not a hand out.”
l If you are interested in helping with the project in any way, contact Mike on 564809.