Open meeting held on 7 October at Dorford Centre


9th October 2019

Open Meeting Monday 7 October 2019

From Homeless – to Housing

held at the Dorford Centre at 7.00 pm                      

Speakers:  Kerry Mellor  - Dorset Assertive Homeless Outreach Team and Fiona Dunbar - Community Health and Wellbeing Partner from Dorset First Point

Dr Margaret Barker introduced the speakers and welcomed Councillor Richard Biggs, Mayor of Dorchester.   There was a record attendance of about 65 to 70 people present, including:

  • A Bridport Christian Fellowship group working to find a way to help homeless people.
  • Dominic who volunteers at the Bus Shelter project in Weymouth.
  • Steve who managed the Hub in Dorchester until that closed in 2017.
  • Luke and his partner who provide hot food for the homeless and vulnerable in Dorchester now.
  • Someone from NightStop, which provides short-term lodgings for young people aged 16 to 25 who find themselves homeless.
  • Kaye Kerridge from Wyvern Savings and Loans (the Credit Union).

Margaret described how important it was that support continued for Dorchester Poverty Action (DPA) and fund raising was a key factor.  There were increasing numbers of people and families in need.  She reminded people to donate a bit of their annual heating allowance at Christmas, if possible.  In the last financial year DPA has given out over £17,000 in grants. 

Kerry Mellor came from the Dorset Assertive Homeless Outreach Team – based at the Lantern Centre in Weymouth and part of the Julian House charity.  The aims for her Team were to provide an active service in the community to improve the lives of rough sleepers, increasing understanding and reduce homelessness and anti-social behaviour for the benefit of everyone.

Kerry and the team start at 6 am in the early morning to find rough sleepers in shop doorways, in streets, in fields, on beaches and at the railway station.   They try to  make contact with people who are homeless - talking, offering service and explaining  the help available.  Referrals could be made to Melcombe House,  a 10 bed hostel, which takes in homeless people, including those with substance addiction and some with their dogs.  It gives a good service but has a long waiting list.  The Bus Shelter is another place with beds available and offering good support.  The Weymouth churches last year provided winter night shelter from January to March and are committed to doing this for a longer period this winter.

Kerry described the problems of working with people with long term complex problems, some with deeply entrenched behavioural problems, who wanted to remain on the streets, and others with problems arising from childhood deprivation and abuse, who find it difficult to accept any kind of help.  Part of Kerry’s role was to try to help people to rebuild and regain trust and self esteem.  The addition to her team of a Navigator to support those who are being housed from rough sleeping has been a great help.

She thanked Margaret and DPA for their support and for the provision of sleeping bags.

Fiona Dunbar from Dorset First Point talked about the integrated Prevention Support Centre based at St Mary Street in Weymouth and with drop-in centres at fixed times in most Dorset towns. These Centres give advice on benefits, housing and social issues, including signposting people to find help with loans, money management, health problems and other needs.

First Point’s aim is to prevent homelessness, where possible, and, for those who are homeless, to help them find secure housing, including helping with applications to the Council and finding private landlords who accept people on benefits.  Fiona also has contact with Kerry and her team and both work towards getting people the help and professional support they need.

Margaret thanked Fiona and Kerry for their talk and questions were taken. Amongst these were questions and contributions from all the groups listed above.

At present there are 6 rough sleepers in Dorchester and many more in Weymouth.

There are more men than women and the ages tend to be 40 – 50 year olds. There are fewer service veterans than there used to be and they are able to get more support now. 

The Mayor, Richard Biggs, who was a great supporter of the Hub, reported that the new Dorset Council are trying to do more to help with the present situation, particularly the long waiting lists for housing.  The packed house showed how much Dorchester people care. 

Margaret thanked the Speakers, The Mayor and all those attending for their continuing support and goodwill.   The meeting closed at 8.30pm.


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