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Closure fears for Homeless centre

John Freeman
The Lancaster Guardian: reports that Lancaster District Homeless Action Service (LDHAS) in Edward Street could close, leaving homeless people without a vital resource.

The Centre, which costs some £130,000 a year to provide services, faces a £40,000 funding shortfall after losing it City Council funding last year and a Lloyds TSB grant.

Figures from CharitiesDirect indicate the Centre has run at a shortfall, but its problems are now more acute. Unless it receives more funds from donations and other sources, the Centre may have to close - and Lancaster's homeless will have to find refuge elsewhere to get food, showers, laundry, help finding accommodation and take classes in basic life skills.

There is nowhere else in the district providing these kind of facillities for the homeless on a regular basis. The problems facing the homeless were dramatically highlighted by the Morecambe Visitor back in 2007, which reported how some were living in toilets.

Sue Widden, the centre's chair of trustees, told the Lancaster Guardian the Centre was busier than ever because of the recession, but talks have begun with its four paid employees about reducing their pay and hours to avoid redundancies.

If the centre has to close completely that would have "devastating" consequences for the city's homeless.

"When people come to LDHAS for help they are already homeless and in dire need of even the most basic elements of day-to-day living," she told the newspaper.

In data gathered for the City Council when it reassessed its policies on dealing with the homeless in 2007, research indicated there has been a consistent increase in the number of homelessness applications made to the Council since December 2000, with the number of new applications doubling over this time.

Lancaster District has a high rate of 1.9 acceptances per 1,000 heads of household, compared to the North West’s rate of 1.2 and a national figure of 1.5 (recorded at Quarter 3, 2002).

"Because the City Council is concentrating on the prevention agenda, a huge hole has opened up in the safety net of services available to homeless people," Sue Widden argues. "These homeless people will not go away, but without the support which they find at the centre they will become even more vulnerable to the difficulties which homeless people experience."

The homeless of Lancaster are not the only vulnerable group facing funding problems: Elm House, an informal drop-in centre in the centre of Lancaster catering for people of working age who are suffering, or recovering, from mental ill health, is also facing closure threat. A petition is circulating locally urging funding bodies - Lancashire Social Services and Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust - to reconsider.

Read the full story on the Lancaster Guardian web site

• Can you help? Send donations to Homeless & Housing Centre Edward Street Lancaster LA1 1QH