Morpeth Rotary Club
New manager Hayley Brown had been in her job with Barnabas Safe and Sound for only five weeks, but agreed to talk to Rotary about it.
There is a great deal of hidden homelessness in Northumberland amongst young people, hidden because they go from house to house, often for years, sleeping where they can with friends and relatives.
Barnabas provides supported housing for young people, where they can learn skills to get into training and manage themselves. Attempts are made to help them get back to their families.
Since April there have been 99 referrals to the local authority for supported housing. Barnabas has accommodated 18, using the six beds it has available. Barnabas is taking over a third property in Blyth to help more young people.
Another important project is developing what used to be Stobhill Boy’s Club. A lot of work and fund-raising has been done over the last year, but more funding is needed.
New fire safety measures have been put in and the kitchen is being upgraded. Gas has been laid on for the first time. Funding has come from the Community Chest, Community Foundation, local councils and the public.
One of the biggest achievements was setting up a gym by knocking through two rooms and building showers. It had a grand opening on June 5 by Steve Patterson, a young boxer from Sunderland who is going to the Olympics.
The first young people have been enrolled and the centre is open for activities for the community, with a youth club, boxing club, sports clubs, and exciting plans for the future.
The next project for funding will be to increase staffing. Barnabas wants existing staff to have more paid hours and to recruit more to cover nights and weekends. It would also like to increase the number of beds. Last year it got enough money to start planning a media suite at Stobhill, with the help of ARC and money from the Rotary Tree of Light.
Questions were invited.
There used to be a time limit for accommodation of two years. However, young people have many issues, including some with mental health problems. For many, just mastering the basic skills of washing dishes and keeping clean would be a great achievement. Others pick up life skills quickly and are soon out having job interviews and applying for a tenancy. It now depends on assessed need.
There are no residents from Morpeth at present, they are from Blyth and Cramlington, with one on the waiting list from Berwick.
A vote of thanks was given by Rotarian Gordon Bolton, a former Chairman of Barnabas. Gordon was pleased to support this well-run organisation, dealing with young people with problems of drink, drugs and family breakdown.
He thanked Hayley and said he was sure that Barnabas was in good hands.