With escalating homelessness and the harshness of winter approaching, Sussex charity Turning Tides have just secured permission for a ground-breaking and innovative new service to support people who are experiencing homelessness. The charity is now appealing for public support as they strive to raise £210k to complete and open the service – which is unique and unprecedented in Sussex – in time for winter. Turning Tides, currently marking its 30th year, runs over 35 different projects across the county – this new service will be unlike any other provision within the wider regional homeless sector. The project will be in the Horsham district, on 6 acres of land, in a rural area of outstanding national beauty. The service will provide high-support accommodation for up to 50 people at a time alongside a range of on-site facilities providing an innovative holistic approach supporting people to rebuild their lives after the trauma of homelessness.
The service will be located at Roffey Place, a former bible college, which is being leased to Turning Tides. The charity is now racing to extensively refurbish and recreate the site, which has been unoccupied and vandalised, to provide this pioneering and transformative service in time for Christmas.
With public support, Turning Tides believe they can open the project in mid-December – providing vital services as the cost-of-living crisis accelerates homelessness. They are appealing for the public to urgently help with financial donations, volunteering, and essential items to help furnish the site. [https://www.turning-tides.org.uk/roffey-place – page will be live from Wednesday onwards]. They are also recruiting keyworkers and specialists for the new project and welcome applications from people who may not have historically worked in a homelessness service but have transferable skills and wish to make a difference.
Roffey Place will include 24-hour onsite support, including mental health and counselling, medical help via a clinical room, substance misuse specialists, a wellbeing and sensory suite, digital inclusion, help with training, employment and managing finances, a commercial kitchen to learn cooking skills, carpentry, craft and furniture renovation workspaces, outdoor therapy spaces, gardening skills, an allotment, beehives, yoga, mindfulness and more. Residents are anticipated to stay for approximately 6-9 months and then move on to independent living or a lower support service.
John Holmstrom, Chief Executive, explains: ‘This is a visionary new model made possible by the uniqueness of the site - the size and space allow us to create a multi-agency service that will amount to a holistic range of services strengthening people on every level. A person could enter this service in their absolute darkest hour – and go on to develop a wide range of skills and rebuild in a profound and transformative way. We don’t believe in sticking plaster ‘solutions’; our work focuses on building lasting pathways out of homelessness.’
Permission for the project has just been granted by Horsham District Councillors and Horsham District Council are key partners in the project. Horsham District Council have supported the application from inception and are instrumental in bringing it to fruition. Council staff across teams and at all levels have pulled out all the stops to work rapidly with Turning Tides as part of their ongoing commitment to support local people experiencing homelessness. Horsham District Council are helping with some of the costs by committing £100k and the charity are seeking support to raise a further £210K. Cllr Tricia Youtan said, ‘I am delighted that we are working in partnership with Turning Tides, a local charity with an excellent track record in providing the best support for single homeless households, to help develop this game changer of a facility for homeless individuals within our District. Roffey Place will ensure that going forward there is no need for anyone in our District to sleep rough or be placed into bed and breakfast accommodation, but instead this new accommodation with professional support, will help them to succeed when they eventually move on to their own permanent residential accommodation.’ Roffey Place is owned by Kingdom Faith Church. Having not used the building for some months they are leasing it to Turning Tides to put the building to good use for the community.
The little-known issue of hidden homelessness in rural locations urgently pushed into the public debate with research published a few weeks ago by the Universities of Kent and Southampton, revealing a crisis of underfunded and hidden homelessness in some of the country’s most beautiful settings. This summer, Turning Tides launched a mobile community hub, a converted double decker bus, to combat this growing issue. Ruth Poyner, Head of Communications at the charity, says: ‘For people who live in these affluent areas, it is so easy to think homelessness isn’t an issue on their doorstep – but it is. On top of this, people sleeping rough in the countryside have often experienced multiple and prolonged disadvantages throughout their lives. It is precisely this traumatic history that can make a person deliberately seek out a remote and hidden rural location. Some of our most beautiful rural settings are hiding some of our most in-need local people.’ Frank, who has been supported by Turning Tides, says he struggled to survive rough sleeping in the countryside: ‘There are so many things to overcome. Getting water, getting food, and keeping warm can be really hard. The basic one is water - I had to walk to petrol stations and would drink the water supply used for car radiators. At one point, I drank pond water and ended up in hospital. In the countryside and in the woods you are away from everything. You are isolated and become a little bit feral. You can become really scared of other human beings – you completely withdraw into yourself. The isolation can be overwhelming.’ Andy, who also slept rough, says: “Turning Tides offer so much. They have been so helpful and understanding and through the charity I feel I have grown. I have a much better life now than I had before. It is the ongoing support that makes all the difference. It is fundamental and helps people to keep moving forwards.’ The cost of living crisis is bringing rapid rises in people experiencing homelessness. Turning Tides are seeing increased need at their services and as reported by the Guardian nationally homelessness is expected to rise by a third. Website: www.turning-tides.org.uk Phone: 01903 680740 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TurningTidesOrg Twitter: @TurningTidesOrg Instagram: @TurningTidesOrg