Determined volunteers who won permission to open a pioneering homeless shelter in Corby last week are forging ahead with plans to raise a million pounds to fund it.
Nightlight volunteers who won an eight month battle for planning permission at the site in Cannock Road, Corby, say that they are confident they can raise the funds through a mix of grants and donations.
But they are relying on the generosity of the people of Corby to provide their skills for a ‘big build’ to help bring the centre - the first dedicated night shelter in Corby - up to scratch. They are also appealing for volunteers to come forward to help them run a temporary shelter in Corby through the winter until the new site is up and running next spring.
The cost to transform the former gym into a state-of-the-art shelter is estimated to be about £600,000, with a further £400,000 for staffing and running costs for the first three years.
The scheme has an experienced grants worker on board to help them secure the bulk of the funding from large grants organisations.
Chief Executive Nicola Pell says she thinks that an initial £150,00 will be enough to get the shelter in a fit state to open a skeleton service by April - with one dormitory, a kitchen, shower room and an office
She said: “We’ve got a really generous donation from Jewsons for materials and we think if we can get the partition walls up and plastered then we can open up.
“We know there are people in Corby with trade skills who might be able to offer their time to help us with the build.”
Several companies including RS Components have a greed to sponsor individual rooms in the shelter and Nicola says she wants the building to be a part of the community.
“We want to build a real relationship with the community,” said Nicola.
“This is not about them just writing us a cheque.”
Local people will be encouraged to look around the centre and to volunteer their services. Nicola also provided reassurance to neighbours who have raised concerns.
Outreach manager Ray Loakes said: “We want this to be a centre of excellence.
“We think every town in the country will want one of these.
“Our homeless guests will be expected to take ownership. They’ll be expected to do chores, to keep the place spotless and to pull their weight. This is their home and we know if they treat it like a home then they will be more likely to ensure they have a good relationship with the community.”
Nicola added: “We will be running a very tight ship here and all our guests will be sign a contract so they know the behaviour we expect from them.
“There’ll be a tight regime. They’ll do their chores before they leave in the morning.
“They’ll be expected to clean up and also to keep themselves clean.”
Recent research shows that Corby has more homeless people per 1,000 people than any other town in the county.
Nicola added: “It’s about getting people out of that downward spiral.
“They lose their job, they start drinking, they lose their flat and they find themselves homeless.
“We want early intervention so we can stop that spiral and get people back into work.
“It’s hard to find the motivation to go to work when you’ve no bed and no shower.
“These people need someone to believe in them.
“Many of them have been broken many years ago. They’ve had abusive childhoods and it was almost inevitable that they were going to end up in this situation.
“They’ve got open, gaping wounds. They need human contact and someone to talk to.
“You have to love these people for what they are and help them to love themselves so that in time they can grow and change.”
Ray added: “I’ve spent a lot of time with these people over the past eight years.
“They’re so generous. They’ll insist on sharing their food with you. We need to get past the stigma of homelessness.”
The volunteers are in talks to open a temporary shelter for this winter within eight weeks and they again need an army of volunteers to man it.
Nicola added: “The people of Corby are incredibly generous.
“We will get open as soon as we can. We need to get these people out of the cold and wet and into a safe environment.”
Alongside practical skills and materials, the Nightlight crew are also particularly in need of volunteers to work nights at the shelter, from 11pm until 7am, and then people who can help with the 7am to 11am ‘breakfast’ shift.
Nicola added: “We do need lots of volunteers to help out overnight.
“We also welcome anyone who can offer skills - even if that’s making the tea and cake.
“I’d say that you have to be a resilient person to do this. Some days it’s not nice, to be honest.
“You’re dealing with people with incredibly complex problems who are at a low ebb in their lives.”
When it is finished, the shelter will have dormitories segregated by sex as well as an nine-bed overflow room. There will be meeting rooms and a kitchen, showers and a washing room.
There will initially be three full-time staff, plus a host of outreach visitors including doctors, drugs and alcohol counsellors and benefits advisors who can help get guests back on their feet.
There will also be a self-contained flat with its own entrance so that people who are ready to move on from the shelter and into their own housing can stay there so they can be monitored to see if they are ready.
Nicola acknowledges that not everyone can be helped.
“There are some people who are entrenched in this lifestyle,” she said.
“But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be given the chance.
“The majority of people don’t want to be there.
“About half of the people on the streets of Corby at the moment are Eastern European. They were sold a dream that they could come here and earn loads of money and get rich and that dream does not exist.
“Some of those people still have jobs. Imagine how much effort it must take to get up, cold and wet and dirty and get to work on time. But they manage it.”
Anyone who can offer voluntary services or other forms of help should get in touch with Nicola via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
TOMORROW: “We know Tom would have been so happy for us.” How the Nightlight team is remembering their friend, Thomas Gravestock who was murdered in Corby in August.