14,000 strong petition to save The Hope Centre handed into Northampton Borough Council

Linda McFarlane, Cecilia Olzon and Thomas Adey handed over the petition at The Guildhall on Monday evening
Linda McFarlane, Cecilia Olzon and Thomas Adey handed over the petition at The Guildhall on Monday evening

A petition with 14,000 signatures was handed in to Northampton Borough Council asking for councillors to do all they can to help save The Hope Centre.

Two former users of the Hope Centre, who have since become volunteers, and a street homeless resident made a presentation to elected members of Northampton Borough Council when it met last night at The Guildhall (Monday December 10).

The charity, which is based at Oasis House in Campbell Street, was given notice to leave its purpose-built home by social housing landlords Midlands Heart in October.

It had moved into the building in 2012, and the year’s notice to leave sparked a petition from former MP and Hope Centre patron Sally Keeble calling on Midlands Heart to ‘rescind the eviction notice and honour the commitment to provide a permanent home for the Hope Centre at Oasis House’.
Speaking at the council meeting, as Mrs Keeble watched on from the public gallery alongside staff members, Linda McFarlane told councillors that she had been living in a tent in Swan Valley when she first visited The Hope Centre.

She said: “I had to leave as it was not safe and I was being spat at. I went to the Hope Centre and I still remember the hot water from the first shower and the clean clothes I was given.”

Cecilia Olzon is currently living on the streets and said: “People think I’m abusing the system, but I’m not. Recently I was attacked by people in the street who kicked me and stole my handbag. Luckily someone chased them away. The Hope Centre offers safety.”

And Thomas Adey added: “I was very withdrawn until I started to go to The Hope Centre. I then joined the kitchen team and I have discovered that I can make something of myself. I’m now training to become a counsellor. The Hope Centre has given me a future.”

The Hope Centre runs a day centre and provides affordable food and housing advice, and support and advice for employment and substance misuse. It also runs cooking clubs and offers emergency overnight shelter for rough sleepers.

The council’s leader, Councillor Jonathan Nunn, had written in his monthly leader’s report that he has had meetings with the acting chair and the treasurer of the Hope Centre.

He said: “These discussions have been helpful, and focused on practical action to best serve the homeless of our town, and NBC’s desire to support the Hope Centre, ensuring its key role continues.”

At the meeting, Councillor Nunn elaborated: “I’m absolutely committed to doing what we can.

“Please don’t think that this council is a part of any operation to end The Hope Centre, we are squarely behind it. I don’t know what the answer will be, but my hope is that we come up with the best-continued support that we can.”

Midland Heart says the charities are being evicted so it can increase the amount of accommodation on offer at Oasis House.
A spokesman for the organisation has previously said: “To increase the life-changing support available to people living in Oasis House we are making changes.

"Unfortunately, this includes asking Hope Centre to find new premises over the course of the next year. We have advised the Hope Centre of this change at the earliest possible opportunity and will ensure that their staff continue to have access to Oasis House in the future to deliver their important work.”