Charity serving Sunderland’s homeless speaks of heartbreaking hardship of those most in need as it marks first year
A drop-in project which opened its doors as the Beast from the East hit has marked a year of offering hope to Sunderland’s homeless.
[email protected], run from Park Road Church, opened its doors as deep snow landed in the region last February.
Since then, more than 333 people have visited the project on 3,600 occasions, helping those facing a “brutal” life on the streets in bitterly cold weather and without a place to call their own.
As well as offering immediate support to stave off hunger and a place to get washed, it works to help people sort out their finances and find emergency and long-term accommodation.
Its launch followed on from a similar project in Gateshead and prompted charity Oasis Community Housing to set up a similar model on Wearside to help those most in need.
David Smith, chief executive for the Christian charity, said: “Most anniversaries involve some kind of celebration, and we really are delighted that the project has been so well supported by the people of Wearside.
“But on the flipside we’re mindful that such extreme demand for what we do shows how desperate people are.
“We’re so grateful to be here, and to be able to bring hope to situations that others might dismiss as hopeless.”
The project is open from 9am to 2pm each weekday and visitors can have a hot drink, something to eat and a shower.
A dedicated band of volunteers run an on-site laundry, so that rough sleepers can clean their clothes.
Dave Cawley, who runs the project with fellow support worker Sam Dobson, says the numbers speak for themselves.
He said: “A year ago there was nowhere like this in the city, now we are busy every day.
“The starting point for a lot of our service users is to have a hot drink and a sympathetic ear.
“But from there we can assist with helping them to register as homeless as well as offer support with their benefits.
“We’ve had a great deal of success helping people find emergency and more permanent accommodation.
“Some of our service users aren’t accepted into hostels for varying reasons and that is just heartbreaking, but at least we have offered them hospitality, friendship and a chance to get out of the wretched weather.
“We had a man come in last week who is currently sleeping in a disused garage and it was so cold that when he’d woken up his eyelids had frozen shut.
Sam added: “Life on the streets is just plain brutal, and our service users often have no one to rely on, or to help them out of the vicious cycle.
“That’s where we come in.”
To continue support of the centre and its other projects for the homeless, the charity is asking Wearsiders to become monthly givers.
David added: “Just £2 a month makes a massive difference when it’s regular.
“It adds up to a point where we can do so much more because of that income.”
Anyone who would like to find out more can visit oasiscommunityhousing.org.