Gateway Homeless Action Group - still needed five years on

Homeless. Picture: Getty Images

Homeless. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In January 2015 the body of Tommy Duffy, a homeless man, was discovered on Sidmouth seafront.

The distress that this caused to the Sidmouth community prompted the formation of Gateway Homeless Action Group, which has now helped more than 60 people.

Jackie Stephen, from Gateway's management board, said: "Would that we could have started 2020 with the news that Gateway is no longer needed, but sadly that is not the case.

"Last year alone Gateway provided a bespoke service to 15 people, and that number does not include the people for whom Gateway provided a simple emergency response of food or equipment such as clothing and boots.

"This service is carried out by three voluntary caseworkers, Ann, Tim and Debbie, who bring a wealth of skills and experience to the task of helping both the homeless and the vulnerably housed in the Sid Valley."

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Many of the people Gateway works with have complex needs due to a variety of factors, including drug or alcohol use, learning disabilities, mental and physical illness and trauma.

The caseworkers carry out risk assessments to ensure their own and their clients' safety and, subject to that, they will work with anybody who engages appropriately with them.

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The vast majority of Gateway's clients receive a level of support that is positively life-changing.

One recent client, Dave, said: "When I came to the attention of Gateway I had lost all hope, but now I have a home, a job and a supportive network to help me work through the issues that contributed to my becoming homeless, and I can't thank Gateway enough."

Ms Stephens explained that there are occasions, albeit rarely, when a client subjects the caseworkers to unrealistic demands or has expectations that cannot be met.

This means that occasionally, and despite their best efforts, they are unable to continue working with a very few individuals.

She said the decision to cease work with someone is not taken lightly and is always subject to confirmation from the Gateway Management Board, which carefully scrutinises the reasons underpinning the decision.

Gateway Homelessness Action Group is a project of the Sid Valley Mission Community based at the Parish Church, Sidmouth.

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