Campaign to fit out new homeless centre

The Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of Norwich yesterday launched a Christmas fundraising campaign to fit out a new homeless centre "like a home, not a institution".

The Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of Norwich yesterday launched a Christmas fundraising campaign to fit out a new homeless centre "like a home, not a institution".

The St Martin's House development, on Westwick Street, needs an extra £50,000 to furnish the £2m centre which will house 22 homeless people who have mental health and substance abuse problems.

Sheriff of Norwich Nick Williams, who is patron of

the charity, said: "At a time when people are enjoying themselves, we are asking shoppers to think of people less fortunate than themselves."


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Every year during the fortnight before Christmas,

St Martin's Housing Trust collects money from shoppers to help house people during the festive period, but this year the money will go exclusively to fitting out the new centre.

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John Hales, operations manager of the trust, said the special funding drive "would not affect the trust's normal activities at Christmas".

More than 100 people stay in the trust's shelters and between three and eight people sleep rough on the streets every night.

Mr Williams said most homeless people were men, but he estimated about one in five were women.

He said: "It used to be mainly older men, often ex-servicemen, but now we are helping more young people, both men and women, often those who have had relationship problems."

The new centre is designed specifically for people with mental health and drink or drug problems who can cause problems in the trust's other centres at Carrow Hill and Bishopbridge.

St Martin's will be the only shelter in the city to allow users to drink on the premises.

Lord Mayor Roy Blower said: "Allowing people to drink in the centre will make a huge difference to the city as street drinking can be a real problem."

Plans to improve the St Martin's House were first laid down in 1998, but it was not until 2005 that the trust struck a deal with Norwich City Council to buy part of the

site required for the 22-bed home.

The trust received £100,000 from the county council, £300,000 from Norfolk Drugs and Alcohol team, £272,000 from the Government Office for the East as well as more than £250,000 from Norwich Consolidated Charities.

Mr Hales added that he hoped the centre would open in the spring and "will feel like a home not an institution".

"We find that the nicer the centre is the better the residents treat it, and if they feel comfortable their treatment will be more successful," he said.

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