AN OPENING ceremony has brought the first all-day hostel for homeless people in Bognor Regis officially into use.
Caroline Nicholls, the High Sheriff of West Sussex, performed the ceremony at the premises owned by the Stonepillow charity.
The property, in Ellasdale Road, has 16 individual en-suite rooms. Some can accommodate couples and people with dogs for the first time in a hostel in the town.
One of the residents, former rough sleeper Rachel Dixey, 45, said the premises acted as a safe haven.
“It’s a place where we can get help and move on. The streets are not a place where everyone can cope. I can look after myself but it was tough. People look down their noses at you.
“You lose a lot of confidence – and this place helps you to rebuild your confidence and get back into the community,” she said.
She has lived there since its first day of June 4 after spells sleeping under the pier and on the seafront after jobs as a taxi driver and a fast food firm’s branch assistant manager.
The hostel cost Stonepillow £1.4m to buy and refurbish – and the charity is seeking another £150,000 for the second phase of work to complete it.
Chief executive Hilary Bartle said the aim was to replicate the hub at its Chichester hostel with a garden, outdoor gym and meeting rooms.
“The annex at the moment is not fit for purpose,” she said. “We want to have needle exchanges here, a GP surgery once a week, sessions with drug and alcohol teams and yoga and art sessions.”
It was hoped to have the hub finished in 2019 for Stonepillow’s 30th year.
“The community of Chichester and Bognor Regis are amazing in helping us to raise money,” said Mrs Bartle.
“This is a real resource for Bognor Regis and will help to get rough sleepers off the streets. In reality, that’s going to take time.
“The longer people are on the streets the more entrenched that becomes and the more difficult for them to fit into accommodation.
“We are working with homeless people and we want to engage with them. We are also working with other agencies in the area. That’s the only way we are going to deal with this situation.”
When the hub opens, it will take over from Stonepillow three day a week use of its ten-bed hostel in Glenlogie in Clarence Road.
After they leave the hostel, the residents can go into move on and supported accommodation run by Stonepillow as they go towards living independently. Statistics at the hostel showed 102 people had used Stonepillow recently, 65 had moved on and 30 were in supported living.
Officially, 22 people sleep rough around the town but it is believed the true figure is higher.