Brighton charity's new kitchen offers recipe for helping the homeless find work

Posted On 10 Jul 2011 at 11:02 pm

A day centre for homeless and vulnerable people in Brighton has been reopened after a 12-month refurbishment.

First Base, in St Stephen’s Hall in Montpelier Place, now includes a kitchen where training is being offered to give people the skills to find work in the catering trade.

Dozens of supporters gathered for the formal reopening on Thursday (7 July) including several members of Brighton and Hove City Council.

They included council leader Bill Randall, who opened the council’s own housing centre for tenants on Tuesday (5 July). The Green councillor is a journalist specialising in housing issues.

His immediate predecessor, Conservative councillor Mary Mears, was also present on Thursday and praised BHT in a generous speech. She too has long had an interest in housing.

They met some of those who have been helped at First Base, which is run by Brighton Housing Trust (BHT).

And they learnt about the project which was funded with help from the Department for Communities and Local Government and a £320,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The work, refitting the grade II* listed former church, was carried out in partnership with the council.

Thrilled

Nikki Homewood, BHT’s director of homelessness services, said: “We’re thrilled with the new building.”

Ms Homewood, who used to run First Base, added: “The restoration work is beautiful and sympathetic to the history of the building while the new facilities for clients provide a modern fit-for-purpose service.”

Andy Winter, BHT’s chief executive, said: “The refurbishment and reopening of First Base is a major milestone in BHT’s journey.

“The facilities that we can offer clients will compare favourably with the best in the country.

“There will be a renewed focus on bringing about change for clients and the work, training and education facilities are of the highest order.

“The remodelling of the centre has been guided by those who use its facilities, and they will have a greater role in running the service in the future.

“We are extremely grateful to all those who have made this possible, from our funders, many hundreds of individual supporters and the clients who have guided the refurbishment.

Amazing

“Last, but by no means least, the amazing staff team at First Base who have carried on providing a great service over the last year while the works have been carried out.”

As well as the catering training project at First Base, the kitchen will be used by Dine!, the social enterprise run by former clients.

Dine! provides external catering for businesses in Brighton and Hove and prepared the food and drink for the reopening.

St Stephen’s Hall became the First Base Day Centre for homeless and vulnerable men and women in 1984.

The building dates from 1766 and originally stood in Castle Square, between the bottom of North Street and the Old Steine, Brighton.

The building became St Stephen’s Chapel of the Royal Pavilion in 1821.

King George IV and William IV and Queen Victoria all worshipped there before the building was moved brick by brick in 1852 to its present site in Montpelier Place.

Brighton Housing Trust, which runs First Base, is a registered charity and housing association, carrying out most of its work in Brighton and Hove.

BHT provides a range of services to homeless and vulnerable men and women including specialist supported housing, legal and advice services, day support and education and training services.

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