County Durham Homelessness Aug 2014

First Stop Darlington

When homelessness charity First Stop Darlington wanted to create a Day Centre that ‘set themselves apart’ in terms of they could offer they approached CRASH for help.

The need

First Stop Darlington, a one stop shop facility for single homeless people to help resolve some of the issues preventing them from living independently, purchased an office building in bid to save on rent and create a more positive environment for their clients.

“We work with approximately 850 people per year providing a range of services,” explains First Stop’s Tracey Freeman. “The emerging needs that the Welfare Reform has brought and the reduction in funding available to organisations means that we need to think differently about how we deliver our services and how we fund them.

“Having a building that is able to accommodate job clubs and training for our client group, in a supported environment that they are comfortable with is important if we are ever going to break the cycle of homelessness and dependence on the state for benefits.

“Being able to learn in a safe, friendly, warm environment which offers familiarity and reduces anxiety is important. In doing so we will bring clients’ confidence and self-worth higher and with support we will be able to integrate people into other educational and training settings, with a real chance of being able to manage, cope and enjoy the learning process.”

The solution

Responding to a request for design support to create multipurpose space as well as a drop in area with shower facilities and a kitchen, CRASH called on Patron companies.

How patrons helped

Patrons EC Harris and Ryder Architecture offered to provide their pro bono professional expertise.

Fellow Patrons British Gypsum and Buildbase also helped by donating key building and plumbing materials.

The social impact

“Homelessness is a symptom, not an issue and can happen to anyone at any time,” says Tracey. “For this reason our client group is varied as are the underlying issues which have resulted in their crisis/situation. Our role is to reduce the crisis, keep them safe and begin the early steps of support which may lead to positive engagement with all the services they need in the future.

“Having a bright environment in a new building that is conducive to learning, is not scary, but does prepare them for move on into classroom type settings helps self-confidence and self-belief.”

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