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MORE than 100 volunteers have contributed 7,000 working hours to ensure a newly refurbished hostel opened for homeless people.

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The Redbridge Assessment Centre, York Road, Ilford, replaces the former Redbridge Night Shelter which last year was facing the prospect of running out of money.

Now, thanks to a merger with London-wide charity Single Homeless Project (SHP), the centre will remain the first port of call for rough sleepers.

Corinne Warwick, who volunteers at the project, is excited about the building’s transformation.

She said: “There is a lovely lightness about the new building and a warm, festive atmosphere.”

Service manager Lou Holland said: “The contribution made by volunteers is staggering, from providing food at drop-in sessions to individual mentoring and support.

“We are looking to expand the mentoring programme during 2011, so would like to recruit at least 10 more volunteers to make this happen.”

There will be around the clock support for 18 homeless people with the aim of helping them make the transition into a settled home, training or work.

Cllr Robin Turbefield, cabinet member for housing, said: “I’m delighted to see completion of the building, which is a significant milestone towards transforming services to support rough sleepers in Redbridge.

“The new centre is the culmination of the hard work of all the partners involved and could not have been achieved without the wide support for the project across the local community.”

Last year the service moved into a temporary base in Mansfield Road, Ilford, while its York Road home was refurbished.

The centre is the first of two major developments to be completed as part of the Redbridge Places of Change partnership, with the new Welcome Centre in Green Lane, Ilford, expected to be completed in the summer.

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