Call Vincent House a ‘hostel’ at your peril. Manager Karen Morton, who formerly worked in mental health, hates the term.
“It carries connotations,” she admits. “It’s a throwback to another age.”
Vincent House, on Furness Avenue, Grange Park, offers supported accommodation for homeless people. It couldn’t feel less like a hostel. Free range hens have the run of the Zen-like garden.
Step within and residents offer tea, a bite to eat, or to tour rooms, compact yet bright and airy, a far cry from Rachman-like grot spots in private rental hot spots.
There’s a resident teenager (with Aspergers), as well as older men and women. Karen says the age range, 16-65, works well. “You get more of a family dynamic. The average stay is five, six weeks. It’s an enabling environment.”
All muck in with chores, as they would in the outside world. It’s Jay Holland’s turn to make the evening meal. “I love it. It feels like home should. More importantly, it smells like home too. A proper one.”
Del Stewart helps out in other ways. He lost pretty much everything he valued when his relationship broke up. He’s been at Vincent House since February, finding his feet, looking for accommodation, hopefully work as an HGV driver once his health and circumstances improve. Meantime, he worries about benefit cuts and whether, if he gets a flat, he will be able to have his three kids over. “I get offered single man accommodation,” he adds. “This place, for me, is a lifesaver. It’s nice to have company too - although it can be irritating at times. That’s another reason it feels like home. You don’t feel so alone.”
Vincent House, like other charities, hopes the Harvest Festival bounty due any day will boost stocks. Cash and help in kind are always needed. Usually some three storage areas are full. This year it’s down to one.
The stand-alone property is run by Catholic social care charity Caritas which is developing a more outcome-based service.
“We treat residents like grown ups,” adds Karen. “There’s less of the thou shalt not do this or you’ll be out approach. They know and respect the house rules but don’t feel like they’re walking on eggshells all the time. They also know they are contributing.”
Karen chairs the local homelessness partnership. “Basically, we just want to help people. The partnership is very positive.
“We work with the resources we have. We all run on skeleton staff. We’re all aware of the climate, the cuts, what’s to come, and the rising demand, but we’re more than prepared to face it. It comes back to one simple truth.
“We care. We see the person and not the situation.”
n www.homelessinblackpool.co.uk, call (01253) 302069