Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Helping Hands Provide a New Start

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Helping Hands Provide a New Start

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE PARKER

WHEN working at Nexus House in Newcastle, I would tell visitors arriving at Central Station to reach us by walking up Pink Lane. Sometimes I would mention that this was the city's old red light district and add "but it doesn't have one now".

It is only recently that I have recognized that not having an identifiable red light district is a problem. The world's oldest profession exists in Newcastle, of course, as it does in all of the United Kingdom's cities, but its nature is very different now.

I have been privileged for the last couple of years to be a board member of Tyneside Cyrenians, a charity established 40 years ago to help the homeless, particularly in Newcastle's West End. Its focus in recent years has been on vulnerable and severely socially excluded people who find themselves without a home for a variety of reasons, often through the likes of drugs, alcohol abuse or family break up.

The Cyrenians provide a home, sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent, along with specialist advice and strong support to those who seek help to get off drugs or alcohol. For many, they organise training in a variety of skills to provide opportunities for future employment and then their own, more permanent accommodation.

Many who use the service have been on, and remain on, a long and hazardous road to a life of what most of us would call normal. Where the Cyrenians staff excel, in my view, is to continue to support each individual despite relapses. For many, it is three steps forwards and two back, and it takes a long time before an individual can really 'stand on their own two feet'.

The Cyrenians, under visionary management and a dedicated team of some 100 staff supported by 150 volunteers, has expanded substantially in the last five years. The Charity Times National Charity of the year last year now has projects and premises throughout Tyne and Wear and recently took over a residential centre in County Durham.

But they do not just work with the homeless and potentially homeless, for they also support women suffering abuse and sex workers.

While most women who turned to prostitution in the past did so out of poverty, the prime cause today (90% in Newcastle) is drug addiction. …

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