'We never give up on people' - Shrewsbury Ark celebrates new home

"People get a first, second and 32nd chance with us. We never give up on people. They're always welcome."

Those were the words of the manager of Shrewsbury Ark as staff, volunteers, service users and dignitaries celebrated the official opening of the charity's new HQ in style.

Last year the charity completed the purchase of the old Rock and Fountain pub, a stone's through from its previous Castle Foregate premises and now, thanks to the hard work of volunteers, the venue has been revamped into a support centre which can offer even more help than before.

The charity started operating from its new home in March, but invited several people for a celebration, including Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire Anna Turner, who unveiled a plaque.

She said: "There have been so many people involved in helping, and everybody wants to enjoy this moment. It's a brilliant atmosphere. Everybody is absolutely delighted.

"Here, they can more work that they know will be helpful. Hopefully this will be here long after we are gone, for the vulnerable people in Shropshire."

On average the Ark now welcomes around 45 people a day through the doors, where they receive hot breakfasts and lunches, cooked by volunteers, and other necessary items (such as toiletries, sanitary products, socks) where needed. The Ark’s outreach team supports those living on the streets, and also those who have moved into their own accommodation.

The ground floor as been transformed to incorporate individual therapy rooms and activity areas, and an industrial-standard kitchen, showers, washing machines and driers have been installed. The upper floors include an office for the Ark’s manager, office rooms for staff and volunteers to carry out essential administration and meetings, and others are also used for storage.

Moving into the new premises has enabled the Ark to expand activities and support services including GP clinics, mental health and counselling sessions, addiction abstinence programmes and heptology clinics.

Service users can also get involved in creative classes including literacy sessions, creative writing, sculpture and art activities.

Some also take part in football training, thanks to the charity's partnership with Shrewsbury Town FC. One member who plays, Martin Pippard, said: "They do loads for us here. They're always here if you need them."

Shrewsbury mayor, Councillor Elisabeth Roberts, was impressed with the facility, and hopes all Salopians will show compassion and respect for homeless people.

"We could all be in this position," she said. "As an ex-care kid, this could have been me and, on a few occasions, it nearly was. These people are part of our community and we need to respect them as human beings. They all have interests, families and histories like everyone else.

"I'm really honoured to be here. It's all about people helping people. A lot of it has been done through volunteering. One guy was in here during Christmas week to finish off the downstairs painting. It's brilliant."

Wendy Faulkner, manager of the Ark, said: "I'm really proud of all the team's achievements. They've been absolutely amazing. We couldn't do it without our volunteers. They cook, they clean, they sit and listen. I think the biggest skills we have are kindness and empathy. People get a first, second and 32nd chance with us. We never give up on people. They're always welcome.

"If you're rough sleeping or homeless or someone in need, you're welcome through the door."

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