Doncaster homeless charity sees more people moving from the streets into jobs

Rosie Winterton, Joyce Foster, Erika Stoddart and Glyn Jones at the relaunch of the M25 housing charity at Mansion House
Rosie Winterton, Joyce Foster, Erika Stoddart and Glyn Jones at the relaunch of the M25 housing charity at Mansion House

Two years ago, those who turned to a Doncaster housing charity to have a roof over their heads faced a bleak future.

For the people drawing on the M25 charity for help, virtially none of the users moved from staying with the charity into a mainstream job.

But changes in the way the charity runs its services have now turned that around. While two years ago the figure was 0.1 per cent, it had now rocketed up to 14 per cent.

The change comes following a switch from the old style hostel to a system of'dispersed housing - homes in sites around Doncaster which provide a roof over the homeless person's head and an address they can use.

M25 chief executive Joyce Foster revealed the turn around at a relaunch of the charity at Mansion House, which is to continue after it was taken over by the social housing organisation Ongo Homes. It will now be known as Ongo M25 Support Services.

M25 switched its methods two years ago, initially when it moved to a new combined office and accommodation block at Sunny Bar, which had previously been the offices of the Doncaster Free Press.

They also started running its dispersed housing, with properties across the borough, which are close enough for residents to walk into town to use services.

Ms Foster said: "It's services that are based on need that are stated by them themselves. We communicate and spend time with people and develop a relationship with them. If you talk long enough, you find what makes people tick. It is about understanding people and putting what is needed around them.

"It is often about dealing with people who have been let down in the past, and making sure that we don't let them down., but we expect things from them too.

"We had been hostel based for 20 years, but we have moved away from that.

"We had 30 people living in rooms in hostel. Now we have 14 properties across Doncaster, from single occupancy to five people sharing. That is accommodation for 50 people."

The M25 staff now work out of offices with those properties. They left the Sunny Bar building in October 2017, after the organisation had lost its previous homeless contract with Doncaster Council.

The charity is hoping to improve on the 14 per cent moving into work, and hope working with other branches of Ongo, which also run an employment organisation, will help.

She said after a year listening to the homeless people, it became clear that they did not want to live in hostels.

"In the last quarter before we stopped running hostels, we had seen 109 incidents of some sort of assault or violence, In two years this has gone."

Ongo, which is based in North Lincolnshire, plans to spend the next year to 18 months finding out what needs doing in Doncaster, saiid operations director Erika Stoddart.

She said: "It's about us understanding what M25 can offer and working to see what provision we need."

The organisation already provides some social housing in Doncaster.