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New day centre supporting the homeless in Kendal

Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Mrs Susan Bagot, cutting the ribbon to official open Manna House’s new home, The Stephenson Centre in Kendal.

With homelessness on the rise across the South Lakes, Kendal charity Manna House officially opened its new premises on Saturday 9th March, meaning better help is now on offer.

Manna House opened 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.

The Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Mrs Susan Bagot, who supported Manna House’s successful application for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this past year, cut the bright purple ribbon after honouring Manna House’s dedication.

“Manna House relies upon many caring people to deliver its services,” said Colin Greaves, Manna House Chair. “That includes all those who worked hard to find us a new home, including the Friends of Manna House, local funders the Frieda Scott Trust and The RJ 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. “

The Stephenson Centre facilities include dedicated rooms to discuss personal circumstances, a therapy and workshop space where anything from hairdressing to counselling and drop-in 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 a chat. At the heart of the Stephenson Centre is a learning kitchen where everyone 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 Aldridge, Manna House Chief Officer 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.”

“Homelessness is a complex and growing problem. 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,” continued Andrea.

“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+ volunteers and 100+ 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.

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