For the last six years a Harrogate Homeless Charity has opened its doors and offered a meal to homeless and vulnerable people every day of the week.
Springboard has served up an estimated 46,800 meals in the last six years to thousands of people in need.
The charity day centre at Wesley Chapel has never once closed its doors, opening every Monday to Friday, including bank holidays and Christmas day since 2009.
The service, which is part of Harrogate’s only registered Homelessness charity, the Harrogate Homeless Project, offers far more than just a meal and a place to go.
Volunteers and staff go out of their way to help people who have facing difficulties to get their life back on track.
“That is why it is called Springboard, it’s a starting point for people, the first port of call for the help they need,” explained manager Liz Hancock.
The Harrogate Homeless Project often finds that Harrogate residents are unaware of the scale of the problem in the town and the work it does to combat homelessness and rough sleeping.
Pamela Mullen works at the Harrogate Homeless Project.
She said: “People don’t think there is a homeless problem in Harrogate, but it is there and has been for decades.
“People in Harrogate don’t realise what goes on at Springboard and the help that we offer.
“They think we are part of the council or the church, but we aren’t and we need donations to be able to keep going.”
Springboard serves up two or three course hot meals to up to 40 people every single day, relying on food donations.
Hostel worker Mark Sutcliffe said: “I started volunteering here six years ago, at the start we could only do a sandwich or something basic but now thanks to people’s donations we can do so much more.
“Fodder regular donate fruit and veg which goes a long way towards making healthy meals for people.
“Everyone who comes here is different and here for their own reasons.
“Some people have simply fallen on hard times, the private rental market in Harrogate is a big problem we see time and time again.”
Many of the visitors to Springboard are struggling with underlying psychological problems or addiction which has led to them street sleeping.
“It is no good just giving someone the keys to a flat, a sandwich and sending them on their way,” said Liz.
“Without properly addressing the underlying issues they will end up in the same position again.”
A therapist works with some of Springboards users to address bigger issue which underpin a vulnerable’s person fall into homeless. Staff from Horizons drug and alcohol treatment service and volunteers from Christians against poverty also hold informal drop in sessions with those using Springboard.
“This way people have one place to go for appointments, they aren’t having to go from here to the other place which would make them less likely to go,” Liz added.
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones visited the service on its sixth anniversary.
He said: “I have visited Springboard and the Harrogate Homeless Project on a number of occasions and I know how much the service they provide is valued by clients.
“But it isn’t just a service to the homeless; it is a service to our whole community.
“Helping those who have hit difficult times to regain self-esteem or bring structure back to their lives is a community endeavour.
“I thank all the volunteers at Springboard – past and present - who for six years have been at the forefront of that endeavour.”
Springboard is always looking for new volunteers, food donations or financial contributions to ensure its work can continue.
If you want to help please contact Liz Hancock on 01423 566900.
It costs around £38,000 per year to run the Springboard service which is entirely reliant on charitable donations.
The team also offer washing facilities to ensure that Springboard users have clean and dry clothing, however due to amount of laundry they are doing each week the project hopes to raise £2,000 to buy a heavy duty dryer.
Former soldier offered a helping hand
John* was pointed in the direction of the Springboard service after his job loss and relationship breakdown left him sleeping rough.
Just last week he had nowhere to turn and found himself beding down on a park bench in Harrogate. In the morning a passer by told him to go to Springboard at Wesley Chapel and he was referred to the Harrogate Homeless Hostel’s No Second Night Out Service.
True to its word, the service offered him a temporary place to sleep before he was offered a room in the hostel, meaning he only spent one night sleeping rough.
“It was the loneliest place in the world that bench, I thought I didn’t have anyone to turn to,” he said. The ex soldier had worked in a high powered job before he was made redundant earlier this year. He said: “Never did I ever think I would find myself in the position where I had to sleep out.
“It was cold, it was wet, I sat there and thought there is no way back from this. It would be very easy to fall into the street life and everything that comes with it.
“At first I thought I would just come here and get something to eat, I thought it would be a soup kitchen, somewhere to warm up but there is so much more than that. They gave me support and advice, pointed me in the right direction and most of all, they cared. The staff and the volunteers actually care, there is a world of difference in my state of mind from how I felt at the beginning of the week to how I felt by Thursday.”
Within a few days John went from feeling hopeless and unable to see a way out his problems to feeling positive about the steps he was making. “It’ll be a long road back to normality, but I will get there, I feel like it is possible now.”