Hostel gives Hope to homeless people around the city

Tim Meaning relaxes at the hostel in Bletchley
Tim Meaning relaxes at the hostel in Bletchley
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WHAT would you do if you suddenly found yourself homeless?

Who would you turn to and where would you go?

John Bullard plaaying pool at the Bletchley hostel

John Bullard plaaying pool at the Bletchley hostel

These are the questions people ask themselves when they are in that predicament.

The Cambridge Street Homeless Hostel, based in Bletchley, offers people a chance to get back on their feet with a place to call home for up to two years.

Homelessness in the city is under the spotlight at the moment and last Saturday residents turned out to take part in the hostel’s Walk of Hope against Homelessness.

Starting at a sister hostel in Fishermead the walk took in the mother and baby unit in Springfield, before finishing in Cambridge Street where people enjoyed live music, with a song written and performed by residents at the Bletchley hostel.

Homeless Hostel, Bletchley. Tim (with paper) and John playing pool.

Homeless Hostel, Bletchley. Tim (with paper) and John playing pool.

Citizen reporter Gareth Ellis spoke to Tim Mealing and John Bullard, two residents who took part in the walk and who have turned their lives around thanks to the hostel and its staff.

“When I arrived here I had a lot of mental health problems after my marriage broke down.” Tim said.

“For four years before I came here I was sleeping on people’s sofas or just on the streets, it wasn’t very nice at all.”

Tim was soon put on to the Bletchley hostel through Shelter in September 2010 and his life was quickly on a different path.

Homeless Hostel, Bletchley. Tim (with paper) and John playing pool.

Homeless Hostel, Bletchley. Tim (with paper) and John playing pool.

He said: “When I first came in I was depressed. Now I have taken up courses in media, IT, maths and English.

“I couldn’t have imagined I would be doing this two years ago and now I’m so motivated I’ll get involved with most things. The staff here have helped no end and now I have a good CV so I have options.”

Tim, who is moving into a house in Crownhill in just over three weeks, now helps out with other homeless charities up and down the country most weekends, using the positive experiences he has had to help others less fortunate.

“It makes me cry to see people on the streets and the situation is only going to get worse. The council say it’s not a problem, they have to realise it is.”

People can be homeless for a number of reasons, for some it is the breakdown of a relationship or an addiction.

“I ended up in jail,” said John.

“I didn’t think anyone would give me a chance but the hostel has given me that. The scariest point for me came when I was homeless for nine weeks. One night I didn’t want to sleep because the place I was in was unguarded.”

Since coming to the hostel John has also made vast improvements and he is now anti-drugs.

He said: “When I first came here I was quite a scared chap, I just wanted to keep my head down. The staff here talk to you like an adult and help so much.

“I haven’t smoked in months and I couldn’t have done that without them. At the end of the day I don’t want to go back on the streets.”

The hostel gives people two years in an environment where they have a kitchen, pool table, garden, washing facilities and a common room, but that is not all they do.

“Our Hostels put a roof over peoples heads but that is only a small part of what we do.” said Kielly Vickers, a support worker at the hostel.

“The rest is about giving individual support and encouragement to help turn our residents lives around.

“We try to help our residents rebuild their lives so when they leave our hostels they have the tools and the confidence to live independent lives.

“They need people to believe in them and to make them feel worthwhile because at the end of the day these are human beings and they have a lot to offer society.”

Each resident is given their own keyworker who offers them support on a weekly basis. Three full time staff are available Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm and residents are able to come and go as they please.

There are 16 single rooms which residents pay £4.90 a week for from their benefits.

Speaking about the walk, Kielly added: “The Walk of Hope was a great success and about 40 people did it.

“Back at Cambridge Street the atmosphere was buzzing we had a great turn out and the Mayor was very supportive. The residents were so proud of what they achieved and they worked extremely hard with the staff to make it such a great day.

“Everybody is talking about next year’s Walk of Hope already. We really hope it grows from strength to strength year after year.”