The future of a Horsham homelessness charity is in doubt as it is now facing becoming homeless itself.
The ARK Horsham is currently based at Horsham United Reformed Church in Springfield Road, Horsham, but that lease will come to an end in September.
The County Times is working with the charity to help them find a new base from which it can run its vital drop-in service.
In the past five years ARK has helped hundreds of people turn their lives around from the life controlling issues of addiction, homelessness and re-offending.
It has partnered with more than 30 official government agencies, welfare groups and local police to help people address their problems.
The council is only required to put a roof over the heads of those deemed of ‘priority need’, such as pregnant women, people who are disabled or are homeless as a result of a natural disaster.
ARK Horsham, in the heart of the town centre, gives non-judgmental daytime support to anyone in need.
They serve a hot lunch on Mondays and Thursdays and hands out food parcels during an evening session on Tuesdays.
Founding director Lisa Burrell said: “We see people who aren’t assessed as ‘priority need’ by the local authority, which effectively means they are responsible for finding their own accommodation as provision for people in that situation doesn’t exist in Horsham as this moment in time.
“Hostels are oversubscribed and quite often have a 28 day stay arrangement.
“The consequence of which is that ARK regularly sees between four and eight people rough sleeping in Horsham and the close surrounding areas each week.
“These are people who access ARK for support when we are open. They are able to use us as an address to register for GP services, a mailing address so they can claim benefits and receive mail.
“They can have hot food, showers and access to the internet as well as look for work on the computer and use the telephone. ARK works 52 weeks of the years to try and help people better their situation and move off the streets into accommodation.”
Without the church as a base, ARK will no longer be able to support people.
Lisa said: “(Losing the church) will mean we have a total inability to function and deliver a service to local people. It’s a nature of what we do - we’re a drop in.
“Without a base for people to drop in to, we are not going to be able to meet their needs.
“People we have engaged with say how important and essential ARK has been in their journeys.
“With an established team of volunteers who have a heart for local people, it will be such a shame to lose this resource.”
scale of the problem
Research shows people are only two months’ pay away from being homeless. That can happen through relationship breakdowns, ill health, sudden unemployment or other life crisis.
In the past year Horsham District Council found 105 homeless households who were eligible, unintentionally homeless and in priority need.
These included 29 people whose parents were no longer able to accommodate them, 11 victims of a ‘violent breakdown with a partner’ and 17 people leaving local authority care or an institution other than a prison or hospital.
People having their home repossessed or having their tenancy terminated were also helped by the council.
There were 202 homeless decisions made between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.
Those who do fit in the priority need categories will have accommodation arrange for them by the council.
They are housed in interim accommodation – which may be bed and breakfast, and then moved into one of the 63 short-stay temporary accommodation properties owned/leased by the council, or straight into one of these homes if possible.
From there, each household is nominated to a housing association for permanent social housing.
Homeless people are not concentrated in Horsham town. Many sleep in rural areas often because they feel safer.
Sarah Burfoot, outreach worker for homelessness charity St Mungo’s Broadway, travels the length and breath of Sussex helping homeless people.
“We are all two pay cheques away from being homeless. It’s a common misconception that every homeless person is a drug addict or an alcoholic.
“All of them are nice people who for whatever reason find themselves on the streets. They can be on the streets for 101 different reasons as well.”
“In Horsham we work with ARK. I’ve got clients here today. We work with the neighbourhood police teams who know where the rough sleepers are.
“Whatever charity in an area we work with - Open House in Crawley and in Mid Sussex, Burgess Hill Town Council, which is very productive.
“It’s the kind of thing you cannot do on your own. We have got to work with other people. These are the most vulnerable in society and they do need our help.”
Kathryn Harlow, personalisation worker for St Mungo’s Broadway, has met several homeless people in the Henfield and Pulborough as well as Horsham town.
She said: “What I find in any big town, people won’t sleep in doorways because it’s dangerous. They will go to the outlying areas and villages and fields because it’s safer.”
new home requirements
To enable it to carry on offering the service it runs currently, ARK wants a base in Horsham town centre where it will be easy for volunteers to take people to medical appointments, housing appointments and meetings with the JobCentre.
The drop-in currently opens Mondays 9am to 3pm, Tuesdays 2pm to 9pm and Thursdays 9am to 5pm.
Lisa said: “We would really like somewhere where we can open seven days a wekk, but that’s a big ask.”
Anyone who could help them can contact Lisa by phoning 07825 284054 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org. For more informatiom about the charity go to thearkhorsham.org.uk