Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The charity that’s putting a stop to the stigma of homelessness

Jessica Hewitt (centre) with Jasmine Beary (left) and Katy Mok of Signposts
It’s estimated that one in four of us is just a pay cheque away from homelessness.
Recent research reveals that more than a quarter of workers in the area claim they could not pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job.
Family breakdown is also a significant factor.
Now award-winning Luton and Dunstable homeless charity Signposts is trying to put a stop to the stigma associated with homelessness.
Spokeswoman Katy Mok said: “We want to get rid of that horrible stereotype.
“No one chooses to be homeless and people should realise that. It happens for so many reasons and then it’s like a roller coaster.
“We not only provide practical support but also help with the drug, alcohol and mental issues that can sometimes result.”
Jessica Hewitt, 22, says the charity has been a lifeline.
She explained: “It’s difficult at first having to adjust to living in a house with lots of different people, some more troubled than others
“I had problems with depression and eating disorders and needed a lot of help with my mental health issues.
“Signposts have made a big difference, they’ve been fantastic.
“The only downside is the social stigma – my boyfriend won’t tell his parents I live in a hostel. But this is the best option for me.”
She added: “I’ve recommended coming here to several people. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, if you need to start over, you need to have support.”
The charity has seven projects in Luton which provide short-term accommodation for singles aged between 16 and 64 and another three in Dunstable catering for young singles aged between 16 and 29.
Chief executive officer Kevin Porter said: “For more than 20 years we’ve provided quality emotional and practical support and accommodation to vulnerable individuals with mental illness, young people with drug and/or alcohol issues, ex offenders and young offenders.
“Our experienced and dedicated team continues to provide this care on a day-to-day basis.”
The charity has won several accolades recently, including three at this year’s Community Awards – Charity Champion, Young Hero and Service with a Smile.
It was also runner-up in the Care in the Community section at the Pride of Bedfordshire awards.
> Signpost’s first Christmas carol concert takes place at 7pm on Thursday (December 12) at the Methodist Church in Dunstable’s Ashton Square.

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