Charitable service in desperate need of storage space

Sharon and Peter Fitzgerald                                     D14361537a
Sharon and Peter Fitzgerald D14361537a

A LIFE-CHANGING service, which helps people in times of desperation and crisis, could temporarily close at the end of the month if it cannot find a new base.

Re-loved provides people from Southwick to Rustington with essential furniture in times of need. The free service, led by Peter and Sharon Fitzgerald, was set up in April, 2012. In that time, they have helped to furnish more than 600 homes.

For the past year, Re-loved has been based in a 5,500 square feet unit in Lancing Business park for a fee of just £1 for the year. Their landlord has now found a new tenant, leaving the Peter and Sharon in search of a new storage space for the furniture they distribute.

Peter Fitzgerald, 46, said: “If we don’t find anywhere we will have to close down for a while. The people we help don’t have anything. We go into their flats and quite often they are sitting there with nothing; without a table, chairs or cups to drink out of. If someone has been homeless, they don’t have any resources they don’t have any money and there’s limited help for them. Even in a charity shop now, a bed and a mattress will cost someone £80 second-hand. It can take people quite a long time to save up that money.

“Our volunteers have expressed concern and upset because coming along and volunteering means so much to them. A number of our volunteers are people who have previously been homeless and it’s offered them a way of retraining and reintegration and helps boost their self-esteem and worth.”

He added that their landlord had been ‘very kind’ and the cheap rent has helped the service grow ‘enormously’.

Robert Trigg, 50, of Brighton Road, Lancing, was helped by the service back in April, after he had spent time homeless.

Robert met Sharon and Peter at a soup kitchen the couple run once a week.

He said: “I told them I had my own place and they said ‘we can help provide you with whatever you need’.”

Re-loved gave him items including a table and chair, a television and digi-box, and a bicycle.

“They are doing a great job,” he said. “They are there to advise the homeless as well, and help them as much as possible. They made a big difference. I would be scrimping and saving to get these things otherwise. It’s good for your well-being and it’s a confidence boost as well.”

Last year, Re-Loved and Southdown MyKey (a county-wide housing support service) developed a cashless voucher scheme using funding secured through the West Sussex Local Assistance Network.

Many MyKey clients experience financial difficulties due to low incomes and benefit delays, and are unable to afford or replace household items, while others come to the service requiring resettlement support following a period of homelessness and need support to furnish a home.

The voucher scheme enabled MyKey to direct any client in need to Re-Loved where they could buy low-cost furniture to furnish their home or replace items as necessary.

A spokesman from Southdown MyKey said: “Re-Loved always responds promptly to requests for assistance, and frequently goes the extra mile, such as returning to clients with second deliveries having seen that they need more than was initially requested or helping them with gardening and household maintenance tasks.

“The Re-Loved service offers a real solution in what are often times of real desperation and crisis, making a significant difference to the lives of the people that we work with and helping them to sustain their independence.”

Peter said Re-Loved were looking at properties of around 1,000-1,500 square feet in size.

He added that the service, which runs on donations, could afford some rent but was not a rich charity.

Anyone able to help the service can contact Sharon on 07808862633.