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Big demand for trust's services

PUBLISHED: 14:09 05 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:13 06 July 2010

OFFERING a range of services from financial and career advice through to a change of clothes and a refreshing shower, a Lowestoft drop-in centre is working hard to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the town.

OFFERING a range of services from financial and career advice through to a change of clothes and a refreshing shower, a Lowestoft drop-in centre is working hard to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the town.

And although Bridge View, in Commercial Road, has been open for over nine months, the demand for services continues to rise.

The drop-in centre was first opened by St Johns Housing Trust on April 28. The trust - which has been established for more than 30 years and provides accommodation, support and resettlement services for people who are homeless and often vulnerable - opened the centre to offer support local people, be it a cup of tea, a sleeping bag, or a referral on to housing services.

Now the centre offers more free services than ever with arts and crafts, ICT facilities, adventure walks, a jobs board and a personal development scheme all helping anyone who needs it.

Stuart Jennings, resettlement coordinator, said: “We are averaging 50 visitors a day. The response has exceeded expectations and goes to show that the services are required daily. Every morning we are greeted by four or five people who have been sleeping rough, in need of a coffee, shower and other basic provisions.”

As well as covering basic needs, the centre is offering a range of services that can help visitors to fulfil their potential, as they experience opportunities that they had not had before.

One success story is Roy Skeet, who lived on the streets of Norwich and in hostels across Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft for 11 years. Through the centre, Roy, 57, has found a flat and is training to be a chef at Lowestoft College. He also volunteers at the centre, serving teas and coffees.

“They've helped me a lot since I've been here,” he said. “If I want anything or I have any problems they will help me, and I'm grateful for what they've done.”

The recent recession has had a big impact on the centre, with demand increasing even more.

Patrick Moir, development manager at St Johns Housing, said: “A lot of people don't realise what we offer. We're offering advice on housing and benefits to people who a year ago wouldn't have dreamt they'd have needed our help.”

The recession has also meant opportunities for funding have decreased, and although the centre was awarded the Real Help for Community Hardship Fund in October, it relies on the help of volunteers and other funding bodies to offer its services. Volunteers are at the heart of their work and an as a result the trust offers the chance for them to take part in bespoke volunteer training programmes.

On March 12 they will be holding an open day, but would welcome anyone who would like to volunteer or any businesses that could offer funding to contact them before then. For information drop in or call 01502 509853.

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