Shelter boss set to retire after 14 years helping the homeless

jpco-13-2-13 Peter Mansfield-Clarke & Kevin Hammond in the Open House Kichen (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-13-2-13 Peter Mansfield-Clarke & Kevin Hammond in the Open House Kichen (Pic by Jon Rigby)

The founder of ‘one of the best’ homeless charities in the South of England is to retire next year after 14 years in charge.

Crawley Open House director Peter Mansfield-Clark MBE thanked residents and businesses for last year donating £43,000 to the shelter which he said was not welcome in the town when it was first founded.

The Open House was able to help ensure everyone who wanted help was off the streets during January’s potentially fatal freezing weather.

Mr Mansfield-Clark, who will retire next year, said the donations from 42 different churches, business and individuals - including a £9,000 anonymous contribution - showed how much support there now was for the hostel.

He said: “Crawley is quite proud of having the Open House now whereas when we started people didn’t want us here. We were really struggling and it’s taken all these years to build up what is one of the best homeless charity in the south of England. We will work with whoever walks through the door and that’s quite unusual.

“It’s so nice these people are thinking of us, particularly when we’re right in the middle of a recession and everyone is feeling the pinch.”

The money will go towards a new kitchen at the Three Bridges hostel which produces up to 800 meals a week. A further £3,000 is required for the appeal with work due to start on May 13.

During the recent cold snap the shelter worked with Crawley Borough Council and the Crawley United Reformed Church to help street sleepers.

Mr Mansfield-Clark said: “It is very worrying with weather like that because there might be people that aren’t in contact with us. When the weather turns our outreach workers try and get the most vulnerable people to accept help. But you do get a macho element who prefer to stay on the streets.”

The director will work three days a week before his retirement in Febuary 2014. He added: “I was born a quarter of a mile from the hostel so it’s really nice to be able to spend 14 years giving something back to the area. “