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New hostel for Gravesend's homeless

PUBLISHED: 12:35 04 November 2010

Opening of new home .Valerie Boswell and The Mayor of Gravesend Bill Lambert

Opening of new home .Valerie Boswell and The Mayor of Gravesend Bill Lambert

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A women's aid group has opened a new hostel for homeless people - and for legal reasons will have to also give sanctuary to men if needed.

Mayor of Gravesham, Bill Lambert cut the ribbon at the new venue in Pelham Road on Tuesday, the same day the aid group also held a domestic abuse awareness day.

Men will have to meet certain specific criteria, but it is expected that more women will be using the new home.

Owned and managed by North Kent Women’s Aid the building has been donated to the group by the Gravesend Soroptimist club.

Soroptimist vice-president Isobel Kesby said: “It is for young people, and I believe they cannot legally exclude young men, but the men will have to meet specific criteria.

“It is a great facility and we are delighted to be able to help in this way.”

Valerie Boswell, chair of the board of trustees for the aid group, added: “Statistics show that a new hostel is desperately needed in this area – more young single women in particular are seeking accommodation.

“This short-term supportive environment offers a safe haven and gives young people an opportunity to get their lives back on track.

“They do not need to have suffered domestic abuse but the fact that they are homeless could mean they’re leading chaotic lifestyles and are vulnerable and at risk.”

The new hostel has seven bed-sits for 16 to 24-year-olds, plus 24-hour warden accommodation.

The Soroptimists set up a housing association in 1958 to let property to retired single or widowed women at a time when neither the council nor the private sector owned retirement flats and it was difficult for women to get mortgages. They owned four properties.

Two properties have now been given to Gravesend Churches Housing Association and the third to the women’s aid group together with £500,000 towards their refurbishment and maintenance. Selling the fourth raised the cash.

Surinjeet Singh, president of the Soroptimist club said: “We are delighted because it fulfils many of our ideals and gives us opportunities to support through voluntary work.”

The domestic abuse awareness day was held at Woodville Halls, and was run by Gravesham and Dartford councils in conjunction with the women’s aid group. The currently operate four refuges in Dartford and Gravesend, providing accommodation for 17 women and 35 children.

The international Soroptimist movement is made up of professional and business women, and the Gravesend club celebrates its 60th birthday in 2012.

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