FRUSTRATED volunteers at Stratford’s former homeless drop-in centre are planning to step up provision for those in need.
The Stratford District Council (SDC) run Link Project in Waterside was closed in February after an unspecified incident prompted safety concerns. It provided support and advice to rough sleepers, those in temporary housing and people who are socially isolated as well as showering and washing facilities, food and drink and donated clothing.
Some of the services including hot food and advice from support charities began operating from various locations across the town – but for just two afternoons a week.
The council says it is still discussing a permanent location for the drop-in centre, and a new ‘housing plus’ centre set to open in the town next autumn could also incorporate some of the services provided by the Link.
But homeless campaigner Jackie Lines has criticised the council for not being proactive enough in supporting Link users and said more provision was needed.
She told the Observer: “As the projection date is autumn 2020 we are now left with the lack of provision for a drop in centre until then. It seems that apparently SDC do not see it as part of their remit despite the fact that they constantly refer to the ‘Link’ in their media releases.
“As volunteers we have now taken it upon ourselves to look for premises with a kitchen that will allow us to provide full hot lunchtime meals to our vulnerable, homeless and street sleepers and a place to gather.
“The Baptist Church and United Reformed Church are doing a splendid job in providing an element of provision but more is needed.
“It is unfortunate that is has fallen to a few individuals to identify this need and that the removal of a drop-in centre has almost gone unnoticed, except by those who desperately need it.”
SDC spokeswoman Coun Jo Barker said the authority did support those in need.
responded: “People in our community are so incredibly kind and genuinely want to help those less fortunate and it’s wonderful that volunteers want to offer this service.
“The district council already supports a number of agencies in providing safe, comfortable and supportive environments for those most in need within the town and we welcome the volunteers’ contributions.”
* The temporary drop-in centre is currently running from the Baptist Church Hall in Stratford on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 3pm.
The service provides food and drink, as well as advice from agencies, including rough sleeper outreach charity P3, rehabilitation charity CGL and Stratford District Council’s housing advice team. The sessions will run from the Payton Street venue until the end of the year.
Anyone who is homeless and needs advice and support can contact the district council’s housing advice team on 01789 260861, P3 on 01789 336279 or in person at the district council offices in Elizabeth House.
Donations can be made at www.meaningfulchange.org.uk to support homeless people in the district.