Reaching out to offer help to hundreds of destitute people across the area each year is something Chris Dunn-Coleman and his team of volunteers at St Clare’s day centre find hugely rewarding.
As one of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects’ lead schemes, sadly, the need for its work appears greater than ever, with the double-dip recession identified as a key factor in people losing their employment and properties.
While no precise data on rough-sleeping and long-term homelessness is available for the area, St Clare’s, based in Marine Place, Worthing, has reported a growing number of young people with nowhere to live, due to unemployment or not being able to stay with families.
This Christmas, three combined hostels in Worthing and St Clare’s provided a festive meal to a total of 100 people, making it one of their busiest times of year. With the charity’s overall budget of £1million across its range of services, helping those in the area who may have drug, alcohol or mental health issues in addition to being homeless, has made their work particularly challenging.
St Clare’s manager Chris, who has witnessed the centre develop over the past five years, believed its work was more vital than ever. He said: “Homeless is a big issue in this area, but that has always been the case. There are a growing number of younger people who are affected by it, though there are some who are going undetected, ‘sofa surfing’, living between friends’ houses.
“We find the average age of people coming to us is coming down and it is now around 35, and it’s fair to say much of that is down to the economic climate. We’re finding it’s becoming less about those with drug and alcohol problems and more about people who have just lost their homes.”
Chris said the centre’s focus had shifted towards group work and offering positive action including developing arts classes.
The team thanked Green Cuisine, which offered a festive meal to its clients. Other firms, including marketing company Fresh Egg, have helped with a “giving tree” of presents.
Rachel Hulder, the fund-raising officer for the charity, believed it had proved a highly memorable experience being a part of the centre over the past two years.
She said: “We have helped 79 people in the last three months, which is nearly double what it was this time last year. I started out as a volunteer a couple of years ago. I thought I would give it a go and have found it really rewarding. I mainly deal with the fundraising so don’t see the clients that much, but when we do see them I think it can be quite emotional work.”