A HOSTEL association for women has marked its 21st anniversary with hopes a direct access hostel can be established in Chester.
Everyone should have a roof over their head – it’s a basic human right, says Chester MP Christine Russell, president of Chester Women’s Hostel Association (CWHA).
As CWHA celebrates 21 years of helping homeless women in the area by providing round-the-clock help all year round, there are fears more women may find themselves homeless.
Currently, Chester has no direct access hostel for women who find themselves without a roof over their head.
Charity workers such as Pam Sharratt, project manager of Lightways in Hoole, have expressed frustration that even though there are good facilities for men there is no provision for women.
Pam is optimistic about the establishment of such a facility: “I am confident it will happen. It doesn’t have to be big but there is a need for it. We are hopeful this will happen.”
The number of homeless women in the UK has risen by nearly 80% in the last five years, according to a report by the Conservative Party.
The Chronicle understands the Government’s Housing Corporation has made money available for the purchase of a property identified as suitable for a direct access women’s hostel.
Alison Amesbury, housing strategy manager at Chester City Council, said: “We are working with Muir Group Housing Association but things are at an early stage. It is something the city council wants to do and we are hoping in three or four weeks things will be a bit clearer.”
In 1988, CWHA met for the first time and Muir Group Housing Association presented plans for the conversion of a property into a hostel for women with the help of a Housing Association grant.
Lightways opened its doors in 1992 and continues to provide a base for women who find themselves without a home.
Pam said: “Lightways is a 10-bedroom hostel which provides accommodation for homeless women over the age of 18. There is a constant need for accommodation here and we are over subscribed year-on-year.
“Last year we had 341 referrals and we could only accommodate 9% of these.”
The aim of the staff at Lightways is to resettle the women and help them regain essential skills before they leave, which can help them lead an independent life.
In 2001, CWHA opened six flats at Chapel Lodge in the city centre, with the hope of helping women progress from Lightways and move-on.
“There have been many success stories,” explains Pam. “Many of the women have moved on to complete university courses, maintain full-time jobs and to reconcile with their families.”
Pam, who has worked for CWHA for the last five years, said: “All the women who come here are individuals with their own experiences.”