Vital Redbridge homeless centre re-opened by MP

�A revamped centre for the homeless was praised by a government minister for helping to “pick up the broken pieces of our society”.

Years after opening Redbridge Night Shelter in York Road, Ilford, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, returned to the site on Friday to officially launch the Jason Lee Centre.

The centre, run by the charity SHP and funded by Redbridge Council, has been up and running since January and so far 30 rough sleepers have benefited from 24-hour support, tenancy workshops and a life skills programme.

‘Sad stories’

Speaking at the event, the Chingford and Woodford Green MP, said: “I remember coming here when it was the night shelter and people were queing up around the corner to make sure they got a spot each night. I heard some very sad stories.

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“We have a major problem in this country with alcoholism and drug abuse, and we as a society need to do more to sort it out earlier on. It is important to recognise that we need to pick up the broken pieces of our society.”

Hinting at the Prime Minister’s idea of the Big Society, Mr Duncan Smith said: “This all started as a voluntary group who said enough was enough and they had to help people they didn’t know. This is an unrecognisable building from that and shows you what happens if people get behind an idea.”

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The centre was redeveloped with funding from the government’s Places of Change scheme and features 18 ensuite rooms, common rooms and training space.

It has been renamed after Jason Lee, a popular former user of the Redbridge Night Shelter who has since died.

It offers each of its users, who stay at the centre for about three to six months, training in IT and employment skills as well as support needed to deal with alcohol or drugs issues.

Toni Warner, director of services at SHP, said: “It is lovely to see it finally open and being used. When it is just a design you don’t know if it will work, but this is a vast improvement.”

About 100 volunteers work alongside professional staff to run Jason Lee House.

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