Sprucing up youth shelterBy Alice Murphy
May 20, 2009
Wokingham's homeless shelter Seaford Court got a complete makeover when an army of volunteers turned up.
Employees from computer giant Microsoft went to the young people's shelter in Seaford Road to paint the walls, spruce up the kitchen and living area, and re-plant the garden.
The shelter houses 10 people aged between 16 and 25 who have nowhere to go.
The centre also helps its residents find work and education as well as care for mental health issues, substance abuse and offending behaviour they might suffer from.
It has been run by supported housing organisation Stonham since Wednesday, April 1, after it took over from previous owners Sanctuary.
John Harper, the service manager for Stonham, said: “It’s really amazing that this happening.
“It had a very institutional feel when we took over four weeks ago. There were boarded up windows and it was in a terrible state.
“The clients felt forgotten for a long time and so to have people coming in to help them has made them genuinely excited.
“Just to get them out of bed in the morning can be a job but this morning they were all up really early to meet the volunteers.
“They are all so enthusiastic about having this done and we have put each of them in charge of a section of the work being done.”
Residents include Tristram Robinson, who at 22 is the eldest occupant.
He has lived there for more than two years and on the day was overseeing the outdoor projects, as well as painting and decorating.
He said a new lease of life was exactly what the centre needed.
“It will be good for the project and will make it look better and feel more homely.
“It wasn’t that great before so I’m looking forward to it.”
Jobs included painting seven of the 10 bedrooms, planting tomato plants and redecorating the kitchen, which was damaged in a recent fire.
Helena Badger, the volunteer development co-ordinator for Wokingham Volunteer Centre in The Plaza, off Denmark Street, runs an employer-supported volunteering scheme and matched up the volunteers with the needy project.
She said: “It is an excellent opportunity for a large corporation to give something back to the local community.
“The clients at Seaford Court get a better quality of life and a chance to learn by working alongside Microsoft employees for the day.”
Councillor Bob Wyatt also went along to watch the progress, having seen the project through from its infancy by making it his chosen charity when he was town mayor in 1992.
He said: “It needed a good makeover and without volunteers it was unlikely to get done, so we are very grateful to Microsoft for providing the help.”
After the work was completed, Microsoft also donated two computers with training programmes to help the young people."