“We’re not just a soup kitchen anymore” says the chairman of a Northampton homeless charity set to double the size of its premises, open a new cafe and massively expand the training it offers.
The Hope Centre, the charity based at Oasis House in Campbell Street, looks after around 100 people every day who are without permanent accommodation.
It offers a day care centre providing food, job advice and bedding and in recent years has branched out to launch Hope Enterprises, which has been training people in electrical repair, catering and joinery and has been gaining income for the charity by selling the finished products.
But next month work will start to expand its services into nearby Maple House on Ash Street with the help of a £470,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
The new building will offer a kitchen training facility, a retro-styled public cafe that is staffed by Hope Centre users and a second day care centre.
Hope Enterprises runs 120 training sessions a month at present, but after Easter that will leap to around 200 a month with the opening of the new building.
Chairman of the Hope Centre, Adrian Pryce, said: “The danger is for some people that come here every day it becomes like a social club and their situation doesn’t improve.
“What we are saying now is - there will be an expectation of everybody that no matter how long it takes, you can improve your skills and get back into society. We want our clients to take control of their lives.”
“We have changed our mission - we are not just a soup kitchen anymore.”
Mr Pryce says the new premises and lottery funding will help the charity to expand into helping people at risk of becoming homeless, such as NEETS (people not in education, employment or training) or recent offenders on probation.
Nearly 30 per cent of all the people registering as new Hope Centre users are below the age of 25.
He said: “We are actually handling a lot more than just rough sleepers here now,”
“We are handling a broken society in many ways, we are handling a generational cycle we need to break.”
The Hope Centre is also looking to begin working with businesses in the town, which may consider offering training and employment to Hope Centre users.
It launched its business forum on January 13, which will continue to explore how the charity and local firms can work together.
Work on rebuilding Maple House, which is where the Hope Centre used to be based under its previous title, Northampton Soup Kitchen, will begin in April, with the work expected to be finished in the spring.