Homelessness seems to be a constant blight on our society and a perennial problem, but there is little doubt that it would be worse without the work of groups like the Worthing Churches Homeless Projects (WCHP), which West Worthing Rotary Club has supported over many years.
John Holmstrom, chief executive of WCHP spoke at a recent meeting of the club and described how people find themselves homeless for a variety of reasons.
Debt, unemployment, relationship breakdown, addiction and mental illness are some of the main reasons. Often it is a combination of some of these factors.
It is difficult to portray the sense of despair that those who find themselves homeless often feel, becoming non-people with a feeling of disconnection with society and its values.
Many do not understand or sympathise with their plight.
80 per cent of those sleeping rough in Worthing are from Worthing itself.
Homelessness is not a straightforward journey for the people concerned.
It is a bumpy road with lots of ups and downs.
It is a frightening time sleeping rough with the constant fear of being robbed, attacked, urinated on, and vulnerable to sexual predators.
It is not something that can be solved alone by any one organisation.
However, WCHP works alongside other social and housing services to play a part in giving the support that is needed.
John illustrated how WCHP helps individuals through sharing Nicky’s story.
Nicky, a man in his mid-20s with a history of being in care and suffering from a degenerative disease, was held back by a lack of education; he turned to drink and drugs and sleeping rough he was subjected to violence and bullying.
Even though Nicky was helped by social services, who found him a home, he was unable to cope and found himself back on the streets.
He was offered a place in a hostel, but this did not turn out well and he was soon homeless again.
WCHP provided what support they could, but eventually he was sectioned because of his behaviour and street drinking.
However, the continued support of the WCHP has helped him turn the corner and his life around.
He has put on weight and has begun helping as a volunteer for WCHP and he continues to improve.
This is just one example of what WCHP is about.
WCHP origins began with the distribution of soup to the homeless on Worthing’s seafront back in 1990 by a group of Christians who wanted to help the local homeless.
However, it was apparent that if the homeless were to be really helped and rehabilitated, a shelter was needed where the homeless could come to be fed, housed and supported.
Byron House was opened as a short-term assessment centre with staff giving round the clock support.
It consisted of nine shared rooms and six self-contained units.
Help was given with physical and mental health problems, budgeting, meaningful use of time and raising aspirations.
It would then be possible to move onto the Stepping Stones Project where accommodation was provided, with an emphasis on responsibility, involvement in the community, social networking and preparing for independent living.
These are now several ongoing projects and there is also a Recovery Project – a 25-bed residential facility which helps adults to overcome drug and alcohol-related addictions which is staffed 24 hours a day.
Intensive support is provided for up to two years.
Each person has his or her own room with a shared lounge, kitchen and a gym.
Each individual has an action plan, a treatment journey that will help them back to independent living with continued support and encouragement along the way.
St Clare’s Community Hub is an important day centre for the homeless in Worthing.
Open six days a week, it serves hot and cold food, provides showers, clothing, IT support, advice, information and signposting.
The hub runs therapeutic group sessions and provides support in many other areas including interventions to help deal with basic needs.
More importantly, it provides advice for anyone facing homelessness or having difficulties with their tenancies.
WCHP now covers Horsham and Littlehampton.
It has 70 staff and 262 volunteers who help with administration, arrange accommodation, cook, offer hair cuts, fundraise and much more.
The mission of WHCP is ‘to end the need to sleeping rough’, but with the help of the volunteers they can begin to re-connect and rehabilitate themselves into society with something as simple as someone talking to them or even just being able to wrap a Christmas present; the things that so many of us take for granted.
For many people homelessness is an episode in their lives from which they can emerge with help and, as Rotarian Rex Patterson recalled: “Recently a young lady greeted me in Worthing, she had been homeless at one stage and was now a nursing sister looking after people with mental health problems.”
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, send an alert to StreetLink by calling 0300 500 0194 or visit www.streetlink.org.uk
You are also invited to join the WCHP in its annual sponsored Sleepout to be held in the playground of Broadwater C of E School on Saturday, January 27, from 7.30pm.
For more information, or if you would like to volunteer with WCHP to help the homeless, phone 01903 680740 or email: [email protected]
Details of Worthing’s three Rotary clubs are:
• Worthing Rotary Club meets Monday, 12.55pm, at the Chatsworth Hotel, in The Steyne, Worthing, 01903 209564.
• West Worthing Rotary Club meets Tuesday evening at Tudor Close, Ferring, 01903 501961.
• Worthing Steyne Rotary Club meets Monday evening at The Ardington Hotel, in Steyne Gardens, Worthing, 07788 638757.
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