Why is Harrogate homeless charity facing its biggest ever challenge

For 30 years Harrogate Homeless Project, supported by a team of volunteers, has prided itself on going to the ‘nth degree’ to help the most vulnerable in our community.

But, such is the scale of the challenges piling up since the pandemic began and lockdown ended, this hands-on charity is now gearing up for its biggest battle since it was founded in 1992.

The expected explosion of demand for its services could not have come at a worse time.

New challenges - Francis McAllister and David Thomson of Harrogate Homeless Project, a charity which provides support to so many.

But the fresh team at the top of Harrogate Homeless Project – new chair David Thomas and new chief executive Francis McAllister – say they are ready to meet the growing pressures and ready to expand their facilities if required.

“If it becomes necessary to expand our accommodation, we stand ready to work with partners across the public and private sectors to make sure that no one needs to sleep on the streets of Harrogate,” said Mr Thomas, who is a lifelong executive in financial services, having worked in UK, Ireland and France.

“Currently our accommodation is full even before we have experienced the full impact of the cost-of-living increases.

“We are concerned that demand will increase as utility bills, fuel costs and inflation increase costs impact the most vulnerable in our society. The increased cost of living, utility bills, fuel and inflation are going to put more pressure on a system that is already under pressure.

Food banks and other support networks are also experiencing this increase in demand.

“We all need to work together to support the most vulnerable during these unpredictable times.”

The key to the potential expansion of what Harrogate Homeless Project offers is fundraising.

The plan is not only to step up fundraising with a series of special events to mark 30 years of the charity, but to update the nature of fundraising itself.

The aim, Mr McAllister says, is to focus on longer-term donations to give HHP stability and enable it to plan ahead.

“Without the support of people and organisations in Harrogate, we quite simply would not be here,” said Mr McAllister, a Harrogate resident with a background working with charities at local, regional and national level.

Deputy CEO with award winning Leeds-based homeless charity, St Georges Crypt, before taking up the role as CEO of Harrogate Homeless Project, he knows what is required to secure the future of the charity.

“Generating income is vital to keep our services funded and responsive,” he said.

“We are starting to build an income generation team who will work with local clubs, companies, individuals, churches, schools and restaurants to support the services we provide.

“This is our 30th anniversary and we are holding a series of fundraising events, including a recent golf day organised by Harrogate Town FC, the Stone Rings Open Gardens event, and our virtual run partnering with Up and Running which we launched earlier this month.”

The charity has always prided itself on turning people’s lives around, as well as providing a temporary roof over their heads with hot food and a warm bed.

People’s donations to Harrogate Homeless Project go towards:

A daycentre called Springboard which provides food, washing facilities, computer/internet access and drop-in services to assist homeless and vulnerably housed people;

A rough sleeper resettlement scheme called No Second Night Out providing emergency shelter with a view to facilitating a suitable and sustainable offer of accommodation;

Offering a pathway towards independence from HHP’s 16-bed hostel to its various move-on houses with support attached.

Understanding the causes of someone’s plight has always been as important as providing immediate help.

HHP chair Mr Thomas said: “We want to continue to grow the range of services accessed through Springboard so that we can understand the root causes of why people are experiencing homelessness and work with clients helping them to re-engage with local communities.

“But, if it becomes necessary to expand our accommodation, then we will work with partners across the public and private sectors to make sure that no one needs to sleep on the streets of Harrogate.”

However the cost of living crisis plays out in the months to come, Harrogate Homeless Project needs – and is very grateful for – the ongoing support of the town.

CEO Mr McAllister added: “It is important to acknowledge and thank Harrogate for their support over the last 30 years, support which has come from individuals, companies, churches, schools and restaurants, even. It is important that we let people know what they are supporting, the difference they are making.

“Some people want to give a regular donation - they can set a monthly standing order to HHP. Supporters are able to donate on our website. But the size is not important – it’s the caring and supporting that makes the difference. This support has been amazing – thank you.

“Thank you Harrogate – please continue to make a difference to homeless and vulnerable people.”

What makes Harrogate Homeless Project different and so successful?

Although Harrogate Homeless Project has offered people who find themselves with nowhere to live a safety net for the last 30 years, it’s always had a deeper aim –

to break the cycle of limited opportunities and homelessness.

HHP’s chair David Thomas said: “We need to be there as a safety net to catch individuals so they can start their journey out of homelessness in a secure environment.

“This helps to get people off the streets, which is an important step but it is only a temporary solution.

“As a charity we realised we needed to do more - gain the confidence and trust of clients and support them as they work to change a chaotic lifestyle which they have had for years.

“Move on housing helps clients to gradually take on greater responsibility for their own life and decisions whilst the level of support required is reduced.

“In this way, the client moves into their own place having developed the skills to budget, cook and manage their tenancy.

“In this way, we can break the cycle of homeless.”

Harrogate is a far from average town and HHP is well aware that its service users do not always fit the ‘traditional’ image of a homeless person.

Instead, HHP like to act as a good parent when appropriate, preparing their charges to enter the big world.

HHP chief executive Francis McAllister said: “In HHP we are clear about our role – which can be a bit like a parent. But we understand everyone does not change their life the first time they try – we all need support, guidance and love.

“Clients are like everyone else – they are individuals and there are multiple reasons why they are homeless.

“People do not choose to become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

“Frequently this addiction covers more deep rooted issues, such as abuse, family break up, mental health issues and rejection.”

It is for this reasons that HHP has always worked so closely with local authorities, community groups and charities.

Mr McAllister said: “When a client learns how to manage their addiction then the deeper issues also need to be tackled so that the person can move on. That is why organisations need to work together.”

How to donate to Harrogate Homeless Project

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