The Bridge Leicester - Homelessness to Hope
We are located at 43 Melton Street, Leicester. Leicester has 22% of the population living in income deprived households and our Centre is based in an area of the City which suffers the results of high levels of poverty. Our clients are amongst the most marginalised people in the City and often have other complex issues in addition to, or as a direct result, of being homeless. Some will have been excluded from mainstream services or do not access them because they feel stigmatised.
We began our mission to the disadvantaged in 2009 when a group of local Christians started providing an outreach ‘Soup Run’ service to homeless people in Leicester. Today our volunteers come from many backgrounds and religions; we accept everyone, regardless of faith. We all have a common goal to help those who are on the street to move from despair to hope. Since 2009, we have grown to now deliver various specialist services ourselves, alongside an expanded hot food service.
As we have so many volunteers, we are able to offer a ‘front line’ service at a minimal cost as well as providing opportunities for our volunteers to gain experience.
Our work supports the aims of the Leicester Homelessness Strategy (2012), which stressed that:
“A model needs to be developed to ensure homeless people can access opportunities to turn their lives around”
Our work also fits closely with the expressed aims of the Leicester Adult Social Care Commissioning Strategy (2015) to:
“Support people’s independence through ‘simple’ services rather than waiting until people hit a crisis point.”
Our overall long term strategic aim is to work with our partners to develop The Bridge Homelessness to Hope into a ‘hub’ centre where local agencies can deliver their services in an accessible, welcoming and non-judgemental environment.
The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope is an outreach to the lost and lonely of Leicester, to the homeless, and to those who just have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Watch our short video where Kath describes what we do.
History of The Bridge – Homelessness to Hope
In 2008, the Salvation Army stopped its soup run in the city to move to South Wigston. A few people who volunteered on the soup run realised that there was still a need for support in the city and so made arrangements to serve food and offer clothes from a base at Bishop Street Methodist Church. The service ran on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and the number of regular volunteers increased to 11. In 2009, The Bridge Homelessness to Hope was registered as a charity with several Trustees, including founding trustee’s Keith and Kath Lawson-West, and Steve Owen, who is still a Trustee today.
The Bridge Homelessness to Hope worked with Leicester City Council on its first night shelter then began running emergency winter night shelters at churches for the next few years. We forged close links with churches, the Salvation Army, The Light project, Pera Melton and Christian group, Agape. These organisations supported us with funding, volunteers and locations for the night shelters.
In 2012, we moved the service from the Methodist Church to the Salvation Army Kildare Street enabling us to provide shelter for more people and also hot meals, cooked by students at Leicester College. In 2013 we appointed our first member of staff – a mentoring project leader, shortly followed by the appointment of Patrick Harris as our Outreach Worker. The following year, after raising £32,000 to go towards re-purposing the building, we moved again to our current location at Melton Street and agreed a nine-year lease. We also we launched our mobile coffee wagon, Ernie and in 2018 we added a former ‘ice cream’ caravan Eric to our coffee fleet.
Today, we have three full-time and three part-time members of staff. We offer a full range of support services with a focus on physical and mental wellbeing, from hot meals (in excess of 18,000 per year), hot showers and clothes to mentoring programmes and health (we hold quarterly health awareness days in addition to our day-to-day health support), and legal advice. We are an active member of the Leicester Homelessness Charter. It is our belief that the problems of homelessness cannot be resolved without addressing issues around mental health.