WITH homelessness on the rise across the South Lakes a move to new premises this month, by Kendal charity Manna House, means better help is on offer.
From Monday 22 October, Manna House opens its new premises on Ann Street to offer a warm, unconditional welcome during the day to those without a home or those who are at risk of being made homeless.
At the heart of their new home is a learning kitchen, says Andrea Aldridge its Chief Officer. She says everyone who comes to the centre will be encouraged to lend a hand, to try something new, and to share a healthy meal in a space with a family feel.
As Andrea explained: “Our learning kitchen is where people come together in a purposeful, social setting. Raising self-esteem is a happy by product of kitchen achievements, made possible because of the surplus food the community shares with us.
The Stephenson Centre facilities also include dedicated rooms to discuss personal circumstances, a therapy and workshop space where anything from hairdressing, to counselling and drop-ins sessions take place. There is a computer room near staff who will be on hand to help with job and accommodation searches and two sitting rooms for those in need of company and chat. Andrea Aldridge says their Stephenson Centre home is also a place where others who work with people who are homeless or vulnerably housed can provide advice and help.
One of its first official guests was The Lord-Lieutenant, Mrs Claire Hensman. She presented Manna House volunteers with the highest award given by The Queen to those who devote their time to others. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was presented to Nina Bale, a volunteer and founder of the charity’s fundraising arm, the Friends of Manna House.
Kendal’s Mayor, Cllr Guy Tirvengadum, was also present to reconfirm Manna House as one of the charities he is supporting during his term of office.
“Manna House relies upon many caring people to deliver its services,” said Andrea Aldridge, their Chief Officer.
“That includes all those who worked hard to find us a new home, including the Friends of Manna House, and The Stephenson Trust. They secured the property for us which we will rent long-term, it means we have much better facilities and we don’t have to worry about having a roof over our heads.
“We are also delighted to be Kendal Mayor’s charity of choice. Manna House, with all our many colourful clients and their wide range of abilities, beliefs, and preferences, is a perfect fit with his focus on diversity. We provide a safe and stable place, with a family feel, and an unconditional welcome to everyone. This fits very well with the Mayor’s message” said Andrea Aldridge.
“Homelessness is a complex and growing problem,” continued Andrea.
“According to the National Audit Office rough sleeping has increased by 134% since 2010. People’s stories of how they end up sleeping rough or sofa surfing challenge all our assumptions, this could happen to anyone.
“Some struggle with debt because they have lost their job or are ill, many people’s circumstances are a result of family breakdown. Others wrestle with mental health issues or addictions, or have suffered abuse or trauma. We are seeing more people who are at risk of becoming homeless, unable to pay their rent or mortgage. We would encourage people to come to us as the first sign of difficulty,” added Andrea.
“We can help sort out budgets and benefits, advise about housing and refer people to services which can really help them. Our staff and volunteers understand how we can all get into difficulties and how we all need help at some point in our lives.
“Last year we gave tailored 1-2-1 housing advice and practical support to meet the multiple needs of 850 people. We employ nine staff and work alongside 50 plus volunteers, which doubles during the Winter Shelter Project. At any given time in South Lakeland we are aware of an average of four rough sleepers, many more sofa surfers and many who are not known to any services.
“As we enter a new chapter for Manna House, we hope to offer better support to the homeless and vulnerably housed,” said Andrea.
Manna House is a registered charity providing advice, advocacy, training and a drop-in support centre for the residents of South Lakeland including those who are vulnerably housed, homeless, lonely or generally needing help. Established in 2002, Manna House moved to temporary accommodation at Castle Lodge in 2010, from Kendal’s Shakespeare Centre. The charity does not provide overnight accommodation but, says Andrea Aldridge those who are homeless or vulnerably housed will be sure of a warm welcome and an understanding, non-judgemental place to get help.