Chippenham hostel provides place to stay and support to help the homeless to begin a new life (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Chippenham hostel provides place to stay and support to help the homeless to begin a new life
8:00pm Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
MOST of us will, thankfully, never need the support of Unity House, but for some the spiral into despair is too overwhelming.
Claire Smith had a mental breakdown when a relationship break-up became too much to bear.
At only 38, she says Unity House saved her life.
The Chippenham hostel gives people in need a tailored support package to address the reasons they found themselves without a home, with the aim of getting them into independent living.
Compulsory weekly training equips them with skills to sustain a tenancy, such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning and understanding the rights and responsibilities within a tenancy agreement.
Some residents have been made homeless by prison, some by drug and alcohol dependency.
In Claire’s case, the breakdown of her relationship meant she had to move out, and the emotional turmoil left her unable to cope.
“When I came here I was definitely at my lowest point,” said Miss Smith.
“I had a load of medication on me. I got picked up by police walking the streets of Salisbury. If it hadn’t been for that I would have taken it all. You don’t have reality in your head, you’re in a complete and utter dark box.”
Now she has been at Unity House six-and-a-half months, she said she feels much more confident and nearly ready to get her own place.
She said: “Unity House saved my life. A lot of people thought becoming homeless would take me further down and actually it’s the complete reverse. It’s the first time I’ve been around people who don’t judge, and I’ve had a chance to find myself. I’ve discovered new skills I didn’t know I had, like actually I’m quite a good critic.”
She is one of the 15 residents at the council-funded Unity House, who range in age from 16 to 60-something. All have the opportunity to volunteer in a sandwich-making social enterprise and can gain qualifications in hospitality and horticulture, which involves working on their allotment in Colerne.
Benjamin O’Toole, 34, said he was referred to Unity House by charity drop-in centre Doorway after sleeping in a tent alongside the Pewsham to Lacock canal in sub-zero temperatures and developing hypothermia.
He said: “I got kicked out on Christmas Day. At first I slept in a hedge, then I got a tent. I almost drowned, I was asleep on a verge on Charter Road. I didn’t know it was marshland until it flooded.
“I went on a downer. I used to buy food with my dole money but I had nowhere to store it and it went rotten so I just bought booze instead.”
After his life skills training at Unity House, he has progressed to one of its six stopgap training flats, where he has his own tenancy with lower level support. He volunteers to show new residents around the town.
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