Former sports shop to host vital charity work in Lowestoft
- Credit: Nick Butcher
It was once a Mecca for keen sports enthusiasts from across north Suffolk and beyond.
But an empty shop in Lowestoft town centre will soon be playing a new role supporting homeless and disadvantaged young people, under ambitious plans unveiled by a local charity.
The Access Community Trust (ACT) is taking over and refurbishing the former Sam Hook sports shop in Bevan Street East – which closed in 2008 – and plans to turn it into a new café and recruitment agency.
It will be staffed by young people to help them break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment.
The project will also see a learning area created and the ACT plans to move to the premises from its base in Gordon Road after the shop's owner Neil Page, Sam Hook's grandson, agreed to charge it a peppercorn rent.
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Emma Ratzer, ACT chief executive, said the charity set out on its new venture after a report last year highlighted Waveney as one of the 10 worst places in the UK for teenagers to live for education and employment opportunities.
Mrs Ratzer said: 'Lowestoft is still suffering from the decline of the fishing industry. We are seeing fourth generation worklessness. There is an expectation among young people in the town that they will be unemployed.
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'We want to break that cycle and we want to capture young people's imagination and raise their expectations.
'That is what the community hub will all be about. It is about taking an individual and getting them to see there is much more to life than what they are doing at the moment.'
Michael Reeves, 22, and Rachael Millward, 24, are being supported by the ACT and were pleased to see it would be expanding its support to young people in the area.
Mr Reeves said: 'It will give young people a chance to make something of their lives.'
Miss Millward added: 'This will help support even more people in the local community.'
As part of its plans, the ACT will also be renting the old Beaconsfield Conservative Club in Beaconsfield Road to provide flats for young people who will work or study at the community hub in Bevan Street East.
Like Mr Page, the club's owner, Craig Atkinson, is offering the building to the charity in a fully-refurbished state and he says he is 'excited to be a part of a local response to the problems faced by today's teenagers'.
Mr Page said: 'The work that Emma and her team are doing to restore it (the Sam Hook shop) and use it for the community is great.
'The charity is supporting people into work at a time when it is most needed – I am pleased to be part of this local project and have committed my support for this fantastic venture.'
The trust began life as the Lowestoft Night Shelter in 1975 and in 1980 it became the registered charity St Johns Housing Trust, opening its first purpose-built hostel, the Fyffe Centre, later that year.
In April, it was relaunched as Access Community Trust and it now provides supported housing in Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Thetford, as well as offering support in health, wellbeing, education and employment.
?The ACT is looking for firms to assist it with the shop refurbishment by providing materials, expertise or support. If you can help, ring Emma Ratzer on 01502 527204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org