Homeless Charity Awarded £397,000 of National Lottery funding
Homeless charity, The Bridge (East Midlands), has announced that it will be delivering a new Homelessness Transition for Offenders Service (HTO Service), thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.
Having launched on 1 April, the service will support rough sleepers, and those at risk of homelessness, with an offending history or experience of the criminal justice system, in their efforts to find safe and secure homes.
The Bridge, based in Loughborough, will provide the new service across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, in hopes to prevent and also relieve homelessness for these community members.
Advice Services Team Manager at The Bridge, Leanne Fletcher, commented: “We are delighted to receive this funding, which will enable us to provide intensive and holistic support to vulnerable people within our community. Those that are released having nowhere to stay are far more likely to reoffend – up to 80% of individuals reoffend as a result of homelessness.”
The service will accept referrals for those both in prison and within the community, while also giving clients the opportunity to self-refer.
Kevin Lewis, a former client of The Bridge, has turned his life around after a period of homelessness.
He commented on the need for the new service: “I’ve been in the homeless situation: it was years ago, but I still understand and I’ve been there with them. They just feel totally disrespected. They’ve got issues as it is already and they just don’t feel part of society at all.
“Sleeping rough is hard in itself let alone when it gets colder, they need to think about blankets and survival, but nowadays they’re getting moved on or arrested too. Now they’ve got that to deal with, as well as the reasons why they’re really out there in the first place.
“They need help like everybody else and some of them are slipping through the net. Some are hurting themselves or committing suicide because they can’t cope anymore. It’s sad.
“I do think that people coming out of prison or who have an offending history are more likely to face those struggles, because there just wasn’t enough help to find accommodation or a hostel on release.
“This is why people are going back to prison; they know they can get three meals, they don’t have bills and they’ve got a roof. So, some might be driven to go and smash a window, or deliberately steal something, because they know they can’t handle being on the street begging for money. They know it might lead them to crime, drinking or drugs. It’s just a vicious circle.”
“The new service is definitely needed, because something more needs to be out there; there’s a lot of vulnerable kids out there now. It’s also great that these rough sleepers can self-refer, because when making these decisions and changing your life, it has to come from within yourself.”
The service is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, providing The Bridge with a £370,000 grant over three years. The National Lottery Community Fund distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded over half a billion pounds (£508.5 million) and supported over 11,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes. To find out more visit www.TNLCommunityFund.org.uk
Matt Poole, Senior Head of Regional Funding for the Midlands at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We are proud to be supporting The Bridge so they can tackle an issue which is important to people in Leicestershire. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, people at risk of homelessness will receive vital support and access to services which can help increase opportunities available to them.”
Alongside the HTO Service, The Bridge also offers support to local people who are homeless or rough sleeping, who have no offending history, through their Housing Advice Service. Providing support for people a variety of housing issues and circumstances, the organisation has a range of services which aim to prevent and relieve homelessness across the sub-region.
Photo right to left: Molly Boggis (Acting Head of Housing Services), Kevin Lewis (former client of The Bridge), Grace Gallimore (Homelessness Transitions Officer)