Sunderland homeless centre was a lifeline to Steven

MP Julie Elliott (right) chats to resident Steven Kimberley and manager Christine Ritchie during her visit to Swan Lodge Salvation Army Hostel in High Street West, Sunderland.
MP Julie Elliott (right) chats to resident Steven Kimberley and manager Christine Ritchie during her visit to Swan Lodge Salvation Army Hostel in High Street West, Sunderland.
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MP Julie Elliot has taken a tour of a “life-changing” centre for the homeless.

The MP for Sunderland Central went behind the scenes at Swan Lodge Lifehouse to find out more about the accommodation and support it offers to homeless men.

She also met resident Steven Kimberley, who moved into the 65-bed centre after he became homeless when his mother died.

The 23-year-old, who now has a full-time job and aspires to be a social worker, told her: “I was very shy and nervous when I came to Swan Lodge with very low self-esteem.

“I’d cared for my mum from the age of 12 and when she died last November, I became homeless as we lost our council house.

“Swan Lodge staff have really supported and encouraged me to have the determination and motivation to plan ahead for my life and get where I want to be.

“I’ve done lots of courses and voluntary work, got a full-time job for the first time in my life and have enrolled in college and hope to go to university to become a social worker.

“For people who think this is a doss house, that’s rubbish.

“Everyone is here for different reasons and the majority of people are here because bad things have happened to them which were out of their control.”

Ms Elliot also found out about ways the centre in High Street East gets residents ready for independent living, including the IT Suite where they can access on-line training courses through learning partners Learn Direct.

She said: “I’ve really enjoyed my visit. The work done here is very good and I was very interested in learning about the Tenancy Achievement award scheme which is giving people the life-skills to cope with independent living.

“I’ve not come across that before; it’s very positive programme.”

Centre manager Christine Ritchie said: “We are delighted Julie Elliott has taken time to visit Swan Lodge and learn of the life-changing work taking place here.

“Salvation Army Lifehouses are places of change and Steven is just one of many individuals who we feel privileged to have been able to help and support in his journey towards independent living.”

Twitter: @janethejourno