30th October 2019
On behalf of the Society of St James, I would like to thank you for your continued support for our charity and the work we are doing to help the homeless people in our community.
I am not able to be here in person this evening, as I have hurt my back, but I am very grateful to Denise who has agreed to pass on my thanks.
Background to the Society of St James
We are a Southampton based charity which has been working since 1972 to provide accommodation and support to homeless men and women. We run a range of housing projects, and for many people the first step is to live in one of our hostels. Many turn up with just a bag of possessions; cold, wet and hungry. We offer everyone a single room, food, and support to help get their lives back on track. Most are short of the basics, so we normally provide towels and toothbrushes for example.
Our hostels provide the basic needs that we can take for granted; a warm and dry building, a proper bed to sleep on with sheets and blankets, as well as food and drink. Once these basic needs are provided for we work with our clients to ensure they have access to all of the services they may need and we then support them to make positive choices that can lead to changes in their situations
After a few months, some people may be ready to move on from the hostels, perhaps into a room in a shared house where they will still be able to access support from staff helping with fairly basic life skills such as cooking, cleaning and budget planning. Alternatively some people may need less support and will both benefit from, and be able to cope in, a small bedsit flat, where they can live more independently, doing their own cooking, cleaning and budgeting. We also provide standard self-contained flats that people can move into and stay in for much longer periods; a place they can really call home but where still benefit from services from the Society that help them maintain their accommodation and get whatever advice and guidance they may need.
Throughout our housing services people can get involved with a range of other activities. These include volunteering within some of the Society’s services where they can provide support to people who are just entering services, speaking to them from personal experience. We also have volunteers working within our IT recycling social enterprise – Jamie’s Computers - and our café in Portsmouth (the Café in the Park), where they can also undertake formal training activities and gain qualifications as well as work experience. Some people may also get involved in the sports projects we run in partnership with the local football clubs - Saints4Sports in Southampton and REFIT in Portsmouth. These projects not only promote a more active and healthy lifestyle, but also provide something positive to do that can have huge benefits for an individual’s mental health. The range of sports programmes that are offered are hugely diverse from walking groups and yoga through to cycling, boxing and organised football teams and matches.
We are currently housing about 450 people in our projects in Southampton, Portsmouth, Gosport and Aldershot and provide additional support services to many hundreds more.
As you have no doubt seen and/ or heard about in the press, there are a lot of people still sleeping rough in Southampton. This is just the tip of iceberg with many more people forming part of the “hidden homeless” who are sleeping on people’s sofa for a night or two, living in squats or simply out of sight somewhere, perhaps in an empty warehouse or a tent. Research has suggested that about 62% of single homeless people are hidden and may not show up in official figures. There are many reasons for this but one is that the hostels in Southampton are full. They are full because there are not enough places that people can move on to and therefore there are not enough beds becoming available in the hostels to cope with the demand. The only way to improve this situation is to provide more housing, with better access to it.
As an organisation we are therefore in desperate need of more housing and our priority at the moment is to acquire more properties. We have recently made an offer to buy a house in Southampton which will need some refurbishment. We have been able to get some government grant to cover some of purchase price, as well as getting a mortgage, but this does not cover all the costs involved. We also have to cover the capital costs of the general refurbishment of the building, as well as installing fire safety systems; and then we have the ‘softer’ costs such as buying furniture and getting carpets laid. We plan to use all of the money raised tonight to help us with these costs.
So please remember, that in about 6 months’ time, 5 more people will be moving into accommodation, and then 5 more people will be moving off the streets of Southampton, thanks to your generosity.
We are facing a housing crisis in this country, the impacts of which are felt far and wide. Unfortunately one of the most severe impacts is felt by the many vulnerable people who end up on the streets. With winter fast approaching their need for somewhere warm to stay with a roof over their heads is ever more pressing. Thank you for your help and generosity in providing a solution to this problem in our region.
18 October 2019