Chichester homeless charity’s refurbishment project

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A charity which supports the homeless is hoping to improve vulnerable people’s lives by providing better facilities.

Stonepillow runs St Joseph’s Night Shelter in Hunston and has just submitted plans for an extension to accommodate ten people.

The shelter, on Hunston Road, currently provides dormitory-style accommodation for 14 people which cannot be booked in advance, plus two rooms for wardens to stay in overnight.

The refurbishment would mean separate rooms for clients and an extended kitchen area.

The charity said despite the number of beds being reduced, the changes would improve people’s chances of moving on, gaining employment and skills and improving their lives.

Stonepillow’s chief executive Sylvie Johnston said she understood people’s concern about the fact there would be four fewer beds, but the refurbishment was part of a wider long-term strategy and would provide more benefits for both clients and the community at large.

“It’s really the future of Stonepillow,” said Mrs Johnston. “These are independent bedrooms for clients to be able to try to look at long-term stay, so in terms of privacy and in terms of encouraging people to come and engage, this is a a better way as opposed to asking them to leave in the morning.

“This is part of a new model for people to access on a longer term up to 28 days and we can only do that when it is set up with individual rooms.”

Mrs Johnston said the new way of working would help engage with rough sleepers more effectively. Nationally, she said the government was moving away from older-style shelters such as St Joseph’s.

The new model would also require more commitment and motivation from clients to help change their lives. In return, they would receive a bed and help with things such as finding employment.

“What the public need to understand is the movement will be far more effective and at the moment this is what really needs to happen. We have other properties to move people on to but we can’t do that.

“It’s almost perpetuating a kind of chaotic lifestyle because they come here at night then have to go in the morning. We hope people can understand where we are going with this.”

Mrs Johnston said the new model of working would also provide better financial security for the charity,

Plans have just been submitted to Chichester District Council and it is hoped work can start in mid-June.

“We are realistic, we know this site will have to be closed for a couple of months and so we are looking at relocating and providing interim accommodation for our rough sleepers,” she said.

The transformation is being made possible thanks to a £200,000 grant from the Homes and Community Agency, and other funding from Chichester District Council.

The shelter was established by the charity, previously known as the St Richard of Chichester Christian Care Association, in 1991.

The project was kickstarted in 1989 when the body of a man who had been sleeping rough in a church porch was found in a public toilet. There are currently around 20 people who use the shelter.

See www.stonepillow.org.uk for more information about the charity.