Emma Ratzer of Access Community Trust looks back at 2016 and looks ahead to future plans for the Lowestoft charity

Emma Ratzer

Emma Ratzer - Credit: Nick Butcher

Looking back on 2016 I am reminded of the exciting new developments our organisation has been championing. Starting the year with the opening of Sam's café was a particular highlight, that saw the culmination of months of planning, lots of borrowing (and on occasion persuading tradesmen to do jobs for free) and several reviews of my risk register. It was an exciting night that was supported by all our local businesses and supporters, far more than I could have hoped for! This new service now stands as the beacon of our commitment to young people in Lowestoft and we are incredibly proud of the work that quietly happens on a daily basis. Watching shy, quiet, socially excluded teenagers blossom into trained baristas is an amazing sight to behold. Changing our workplace environment by employing 16 – 18 year olds has been a new direction for us, and one that has had a remarkable impact on us all as individuals. There is of course one downside, employing individuals younger than ones own children, does make you feel old. But, the slightly crazy, chaotic balls of excitement we now have joining the organisation also brings me clarity about why I do what I do.

Our frontline homeless services have had a difficult year.

We will have seen over 2000 individuals by the end of 2016 and it does feel very much like 2017 will see similar figures for support around debt, mental health issues and family breakdown.

Rough sleeping in Waveney has been increasing since 2014 and rather shockingly we know of at least 30 people who are sleeping outside or in their car.

I certainly haven't seen numbers like this before.

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I don't have the time, and I am not sure of its importance really anymore, to rally the troops, start shouting and apportion blame to anyone about why we are encountering this situation.

I spend my energy dealing with the presenting issues, finding solutions and developing services that support people back into independent, fulfilling lives.

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I am constantly overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion that our community shows during times of need – a good example of this is our recently started soup kitchen that serves around 40 cups of soup a night.

Not only are we inundated with people needing warmth and human contact but passers-by are always stopping to help volunteer.

What a marvellous and resilient community we are.

For 2017 I am starting with a notebook full of ideas, some more advanced than others, but I have borrowed the key theme from Octavia Hill (social reformer and founder of the National Trust).

Upon taking on her first 3 supported housing schemes she created aims that ensured everybody had 'lives noble, homes happy and family life good'.

These themes will carry me and my organisation through this New Year.

There will be some more 'build it and they will come moments', so keep an eye out for our new services – you never know when you might need us!

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