For the past month the Harrogate Advertiser has been campaigning to raise awareness of the Harrogate Homeless Project after startling figures showed the charity helped around 200 homeless people in one year through their No Second Night Scheme.
The project has received an unprecedented response to our campaign with seven people given emergency accommodation in the past week.
Project leader Andy Kirk said: “We have been very very busy, we are getting a lot of people coming to the door after reading about this place or being told about it by someone who has read about us.”
The No second Night Out scheme not only offers homeless people emergency shelter, but aims to rehouse people permanently.
However finding move on accommodation in Harrrogate is often a challenge for the project, Andy said: “One of the problems with Harrogate is that 80 to 90 per cent of people are employed in the private sector so landlords can say no to people on benefits and only allow working people.
“We have a couple of landlords on board but it’s difficult. We have started to work with a local estate agent, e-lets, but it is hard.”
Liz Hancock, manager at the Harrogate Homeless Project, said one of the reasons she applied for the bid to run the No Second Night Out project in the district was because it would help free spaces at the hostel.
“Before No Second Night we were sometimes having to turn people away and put them on a list.
“It is unusual for a charity to run the No Second Night provision, we are not part of a national network, we are a local independent charity.”
She added: “Since the No Second Night Out the hostel has become more for people who really need it with some people on the No Second Night Out scheme able to move straight on, if there is a place for them.”
Local Christian charity Lifeline Harrogate recognised the need for more move on housing in the district and in January 2013 bought a property with another charity, Green Pastures, for Harrogate Homeless Project.
In February they started to house people and 10 days ago they bought their second property in Harrogate.
Carl Good, chairman of lifeline, said: “There is a chronic lack of move on accommodation. The private rented sector in Harrogate is very expensive and is very difficult to access because most landlords are not interested.
“It’s difficult for people staying at the hostel to make that transition.
“We want to see people progressing their lives and we were finding people were getting stuck at the hostel, it’s not good for them to remain there too long when they need to be exercising their independence.”
Liz said the availability of move on accommodation is vital.
“It’s a pathway, it’s like a chain, it all needs to be linked together to move people on and free up spaces for other people in need.”
Mr Good added: “It’s very encouraging for us to think we aren’t helping just the three people who are moving in, but clearing spaces so helping at least six people at a time.
“The hostel isn’t a long-term home for them but this place can be, it’s a shared house but it’s their own home.
“Since we have been housing people we have stayed in touch and helped them through difficult situations.
“We have a fortnightly lunch club and we have seen people making significant progress.
“Homelessness is such a shock to the system people need to feel settles in their own home before they can start to think about their future.”
Last year Mr Good gave up his job as a financial investor after 22 years to dedicate his time to Lifeline.
He said: “I personally wanted to get involved after me and my wife saw a distressed homeless man sleeping rough in freezing conditions just before Christmas in 2011. After speaking to him I thought is there something I can do to help.”
Volunteers from local churches helped Lifeline refurbish and furnish the first property, but there is less work to do with the second property.
“When the sellers found out we were a housing charity they left their kitchen goods and some furniture for us, so it should be ready for people to move in soon.”
How the Hostel has developed
The implementation of the No Second Night Out scheme has been one of the biggest changes to the Harrogate Homeless Project since it was opened in 1991.
Hostel volunteer Belinda Goode said: “It has really changed the hostel, when I first started volunteering there was a lot more chaotic users but No Second Night Out deals with a lot more stable people, people who have just fallen on hard times.”
Project manager Liz has worked at Harrogate Homeless Project since 2005 and seen considerable changes to the hostel.
In 2009 the hostel secured Places of Change funding to refurbish the hostel, creating 16 rooms.
She said: “Because of the funding the hostel was changed from a hostel offering emergency shelter to somewhere offering stability.”
The hostel was started by Churches Together and was staffed entirely by volunteers, but over the years it has moved to be fully staffed.
Liz said: “We couldn’t do this without the staff, they are amazing, it is more than a job to them.
“They help people get on with their lives and be who they want to be.
She added: “Churches together still really do support us, financially and with food donations from harvest festival and at Christmas.
“We feel we are very much in their minds, which is great.”
Case study - ‘You have helped me become a person with hope for the future.’
One of the tenants at Lifeline’s house, who didn’t wish to be named, spoke of his time at the house.
He said: “I think the biggest thing about Lifeline for me is that just knowing that there are people around who really care.
“I feel as if I have come on leaps and bounds, not having to worry about so many things.
“It is a happy house, it provides a real hub for us.”
He added: “It has given me a different perspective on life because I have found people who care about me and that is a rare thing.
“It is allowing me to prosper and I’m prospering more and more all of the time.
“I intend to join a church because I have seen something in the people at Lifeline I want for myself.
“You have helped me from the absolute pits to where I am today, which is a person with hope for the future.”
Case study - ‘They have helped me out and put me back on my feet’
One of Lifeline’s first tenants was made homeless after a
He said: “I never thought in a million years I’d end up in this situation.
“You take life for granted sometimes and you don’t think what’s around the corner. But just like that it can all go and you lose everything.”
“It was an awful time. I felt like my world had come crashing down.”
After time sleeping on friends’ sofas he turned to the Harrogate Homeless Project and No Second Night Out.
He said: “I was very nervous. The worst thing was feeling like I shouldn’t be there.”
Within five weeks he was offered a place at Lifeline’s property.
He said: “They’ve helped me out and put me back on my feet.”
Within just a few months of being made homeless he was able to move into his own private rented accomodation.