Jesmond House aims to break stigma around hostels for homeless

Jesmond House has been open since 1984 but a lot of residents are not aware it exists.

The homeless hostel on Clayton Road is urging people to get engaged with the hostel’s work for Christmas as a way to break the negative stigma around homeless hostels.

Jesmond House provides rooms for single occupants with no history of drugs or violence, where they can stay for as long as they need. The facility has a 24-hour support service for its residents and offers two home cooked meals each day.

Zena Scott, a support worker at Jesmond House, said that their residents love being there and that there is a very friendly atmosphere.

“The residents are very accommodating towards each other because they know how they felt when they were actually in that situation,” said Scott. “Those who come here feel like they belong straight away.”

The hostel helps its residents with getting on benefits, renting a new home and filling out application forms, among other things. “Everything is done from the building,” Scott said. 

When it comes to residents with mental health issues, Jesmond House directs its residents in the right direction to get the help they need.

“We’re not trained here for mental health, but we do offer simple support and we will direct the residents to the right place,” Scott explained.

Homelessness has been on the rise in recent years, with Shelter saying the number of people sleeping rough in Newcastle had doubled from 2016 to 2017 – from 5 to 10. However, official statistics gathered from a small sample of nights and with strict criteria, understate the true scale of homelessness.

Teaming up with Crisis, the hostel have volunteers help the residents to move on and get them ready for society. Scott said: “People don’t always want to move on. It’s an easy, simple life here. You get fed, you get your room cleaned and everything you want is on premises. Trying to get people out is hard.”

A single bedroom that Jesmond House offers. Not in picture: wash basin and wardrobe.

A resident at the hostel who had only been there for a week told JesmondLocal that although it has been hard, everyone at the hostel has been very welcoming. 

Scott believes that there is an unfounded stigma surrounding homeless people and homeless hostels in particular.

“The police come here a lot. As soon as something happens in the area they come straight to us,” she said.

“Nine times out of 10 it’s never our resident. We do get stigmatised with people saying ‘Oh, you’re a hostel, they must be from your place,’ but it’s not always from here. Not never, but not always.”

The hostel has security cameras all around the facility so no one can get in or out without them knowing, Scott told JesmondLocal. 

“Any time an incident has occurred somewhere near the hostel we get the police calling us and asking us to check our cameras if anyone ‘Has come in wearing that type of jacket,’ for example. 

“I’ll just say I’ve looked but there’s nothing at all.” Scott said.

She added: “There is a negative stigma to the hostel. People think that because it’s got homeless people in it, there must be baddies. But they’re not, not always.”

“My bosses always say to us: ‘You’re always one wage away from being homeless’, and that’s exactly right. You lose your job today, you’re homeless tomorrow because you can’t afford to pay your rent.”

Stigma about the hostel may cause unnecessary negativity but through just coming to visit, seeing how they work and putting the word out there that not everyone who is homeless is a bad person Scott believes this can be counteracted. She also believes the hostel has a positive impact on the community.

“We get people who come back after getting on the feet going, ‘Thank you for taking me in, I’ve now got a job, I’m married, I’ve got children, I’ve got my own house. It’s lovely.

“We’re not all bad, I think we’re doing a good job, taking people off the streets, taking them in here and getting them in the right direction.

“Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means you fell on hard times.”

To find out how you can help, visit the hostel on Clayton Road or email [email protected] To read more about the hostel, visit http://neywca.co.uk/jesmond-house/.