HARP welcomed HRH the Duke of Kent KG to the Bradbury Day Centre on the 2nd February to officially open the facility which began operations in 2014, and has since provided a valuable service to Southend’s homeless population, helping 1,071 people last year.
The Duke, accompanied by Lord Petre, Lord Lieutenant of Essex, was met by HARP’s Chief Executive, Gill Garwood, along with Service Operations Manager Gary Turner, Property Development Manager Nicky Houston, and Chair of Trustees Richard Hair.
The Duke then toured Ivan Heath House, HARP’s emergency 18-bedroom night shelter, where he chatted to service users Serena Shaw and Jordon Needs, and met Homelessness Prevention Team Leader Neal McArdle and Emergency Housing Co-ordinator Paul Kenrick.
Next came a tour of the Bradbury Centre. The Duke was shown one of the Centre’s interview rooms, where he spent time with a service user and Local Services Co-ordinator Laura Holland, discovering how people are introduced to HARP’s services and the process of assessing and prioritising their needs.
Gary Turner says: ‘It’s clear the Duke has a good understanding of issues affecting the homeless. He showed keen interest in all the activities that we provide to help people build up their vocational skills, with the intention of eventually returning to paid employment. In 2009 he became the first patron of St Mungo’s Broadway, a national homeless charity, so is well aware of the work of charities such as HARP’.
The party then moved into the dining room, where the Duke was introduced to service users involved in an art-making activity with Meaningful Activities Manager Gareth Evans and Supported Housing Move-On Worker, Catherine Storey.
From there, the Duke was shown into the John Cottrell training room, where groups of HARP’s staff, service users, supporters, volunteers and trustees were waiting to meet him.
The Duke spent time speaking to everyone in the various groups, and was especially interested in comments from service users of how they felt HARP had helped them.
Finally, after a brief announcement from Richard Hair, HRH was invited to officially open The Bradbury Centre. The Duke expressed his admiration for the work carried out by HARP’s staff, volunteers and supporters, and how we enable people to get back on their feet, helping to build confidence, eventually finding employment and living independently.
The Duke also added his regret that anyone should be homeless in this day and age. He then unveiled the new plaque – which has now taken pride of place mounted next to the front door of The Bradbury Centre.
One of the service users who met HRH commented: ‘Without HARP I honestly don’t know where I would be today. With their help I’m proud to say I’ve haven’t touched a drop of drink for nine months, and I’m re-building my relationship with my children’.
Gill Garwood, HARP’s Chief Executive says of the Duke’s visit: ‘The Duke’s visit was the perfect way to mark the official opening of The Bradbury Centre, and he was extremely impressed with our work, showing real interest in everyone he spoke to. It was also wonderful to be able to bring together everyone who was instrumental in making The Bradbury Centre a reality, and to see some of our service users interacting and enjoying themselves’.
HARP doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We’re part of a network of essential services, statutory and community organisations, schools, churches and individuals all working together with a common goal: End Rough Sleeping.
Nurturing those networks, encouraging them to develop and grow strong remains a priority to ensure we exist long enough to achieve that goal. In that respect, the Duke’s visit played into the wider picture of HARP as part of that network.
A facility like The Bradbury Centre doesn’t happen by accident: the work involved in bringing the project to fruition was ten years in the planning, and cost a total of £2.3 million pounds to achieve. A huge figure like that can ONLY be secured by creating, developing and maintaining links with a passionate and enthusiastic network of doners, funders, supporters and staff.