A homeless charity which feared it would be forced to fold is celebrating an incredible turnaround after being awarded enough funding to expand its operations.
Trustees of Leyland-based SLEAP (Support in Leyland with Emergency Accommodation for Young People) told the Guardian last year about their concerns that Government cuts would mean it wouldn’t be able to continue its good work for much longer.
“We’re thrilled; it is a relief, I have to say”Colin Naylor, SLEAP’s manager
It even resorted to issuing possible redundancy notices to all of its staff.
But the service, which has been operating for more than 20 years to place homeless young people into the homes of host families, has been successful in its bid for funding to carry on for at least the next two years.
What’s more, the £282,000 grant from Lancashire County Council’s Supporting People funds means that the charity will be expanding from May – employing more staff and covering the whole of central Lancashire. Chairman of Trustees, the Rev Tony Crawford, said: “Over the last six months emergency and supported lodging providers for homeless youths in Lancashire have been in a very uncertain situation, with SLEAP trustees having to issue possible redundancy notices to all its staff.
“However, following a competition for the new smaller service in Lancashire, I am pleased to say that after bidding against much bigger charities, a small Leyland charity won!
“SLEAP will now expand to employ two more staff, and will cover South Ribble, Chorley, Preston, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale for referrals of homeless young people aged between 16 and 25, and will be seeking new householders from those areas to help our vulnerable teenagers.”
The manager of SLEAP, which is based in Leyland Lane, added that the news was a ‘relief’.
Colin Naylor said: “Our current contract with LCC was due to expire on March 31, and we knew that we had to apply for the replacement contract for a two-year term.
“We were delighted when we found out we’d won the contract, and it means that not only will we continue to cover the areas of South Ribble and Chorley, but we are also expanding further afield.
“Our existing contract has been extended for a month, and we need to hit the ground running now ready for the new one to start in May.
“We will be doubling in size in terms of the amount of young people we will be looking to accommodate, so it’s a very busy time.”
He added: “We’re thrilled; it is a relief, I have to say. We really needed that funding.
“We did all we possibly could, and fortunately it’s worked out in our favour. It’s onward and upward now.”
Since April last year, SLEAP has managed to house around 25 young people who found themselves with no family to live with, and no roof over their head.
On top of that, staff dealt with 70 referrals and around 100 other enquiries.
If the charity isn’t able to help someone, it will refer them to other agencies.
“These are people who have had a tough time in life, and we try to get them out of those situations,” Colin said. “As well as finding them somewhere to live, which is usually for a few months, we also support them with work and education opportunities.
“It’s all part and parcel of the work we do to support young people, but we couldn’t do that without the kindheartedness and generosity of the host families.
“There is a constant number of young people who find themselves homeless, but recently we’re finding that people require accommodation for longer periods of time; very few need respite for a day or two anymore.
“This service is always going to be needed, although I wish that wasn’t the case.
“The fact is that there are always homeless young people, and we don’t expect that to change.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The supported lodgings scheme, funded by Lancashire County Council’s Supporting People team, offers medium-term accommodation in a structured family environment, to enable young people to develop the skills to live more independently.
“It is an important part of support for vulnerable young people and this funding means SLEAP will be able to provide it across the whole of central Lancashire for the next two years.
“Similar schemes are also run in the north and east of the county.”