Warming hearts

THIS winter the Leonard Stocks Centre will open its doors to every rough sleeper during severe weather.

Lounges and training rooms will cleared and mattresses provided.

This open door policy will help prevent homeless people freezing to death on the streets of Torbay when temperatures plunge.

To help the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol run smoothly the Friends have purchased 20 sleeping bags and inner sheets.

This winter the hostel will work closely with the TOWNS project which opens up church halls to rough sleepers from January on-wards.

Don’t let council close the hostel

The Friends of Factory Row once again finds itself fighting for the future of the hostel as Torbay Council promotes a new housing strategy.

Housing First aims to move homeless people straight into flats and bedsits and close the Leonard Stocks Centre.

But Nick Pannell, chairman of the Friends, says emergency 24hr supported accommodation will always be needed and the agenda is being driven by those who just want to see the hostel closed or relocated.

Nick said: “Housing First is a good idea but in Torbay the policy is entangled with a plan to close the hostel.

“Some people can be moved straight from the street into housing with minimum support (and that’s right for them) but there are many who are chaotic, typically with mental health problems, who need 24hr support.

“This is the expertise which the hostel has and closing it will leave a dangerous gap in services which will put lives at risk.

“There is funding for the hostel until 2020 but we need to challenge this policy now to stop it becoming set in stone.

“The hostel in Factory Row has been saving lives on our streets for nearly 30 years, it was only 10 years ago that the hostel was re-built as the Leonard Stocks Centre with £2m of public money.

“A huge amount of charity donations continue to pour in from harvest festival produce to generous bequests. The community’s support for the hostel has made it a flagship project in the south west and the Friends will fight hard to save it.”

“There is a discussion to be had about whether too many people with complex problems are now accommodated in Factory Row and the impact this house on the Castle Circus area.

“If Housing First is to be the way forward we say Leonard Stocks should be the front door for services and be retained for the 24-hr emergency accommodation.

“It can continue to be the base for medical help, severe weather provision and outreach services. This makes overwhelming sense as trying to create this elsewhere will just meet with strident opposition from residents in that area.

Books for cash

Thank you for keeping our charity bookstall in Torquay Market well stocked.

Donations in exchange for books have now reached over £1500 which is helping to fund

Friends activities in the hostel. Thanks to the traders too who oversee it.

David’s final wish granted

WHEN people choose to die at home it means they feel safe and supported in that place.

When David, 52, was told he had just weeks to live from bone cancer, he knew where home was - among the caring staff and fellow residents at the Leonard Stocks homeless hostel in Torquay.

David had been living in the hostel since March 2017 but a fall in early autumn this year, revealed the onset of terminal cancer.

David was offered the opportunity to stay in hospital, move into a care home or Rowcroft Hospice but David asked hostel manager Danny Crowley if he “could come home”.

Danny had no hesitation in granting his request and was immediately busy contacting social services, and the medical teams which could provide the palliative care which David needed.

The hospital delivered a bed and mattress and David moved downstairs, next to the staff office, so they could drop in frequently. He was given his own walky talky to call for help if it was needed.

Four weeks after his diagnosis David was very weak. Hostel staff were spending many hours comforting him in the way that any extended family cradles a loved one during their final days.

His son and friends visited, Macmillan nurses too and then peacefully, on October 5,

David passed away with three hostel staff by his side, his final wish granted.

Danny said: “David was a very kind man, honest and polite all the way, and I am so proud of the work the staff did. It has been a very emotional time but we were privileged to support David to die with dignity in the place he called home”.

New direction

A well-attended Extra-ordinary General Meeting of the Friends in July voted unanimously to re-constitute the Friends of Factory Row as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. 

The long-serving committee all agreed to be trustees and we will be moving to a membership model, with a meeting once a year to report back to our supporters. The mission of our charity is also expanding to include support for homelessness projects across South Devon. We will do this by making grants, organising a volunteer programme, raising awareness and countering prejudice - continuing the work of the last 25 years. Thank you Friends and supporters.

A final thought

“Sometimes it is easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realise it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” Mike Yankoski