Hightown’s Kent House hostel celebrated its 20th anniversary of working to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in St Albans.

To mark the occasion, staff from Kent House were joined by current and former residents and the service hosted talks from SW Herts Samaritans, St Albans Council Housing Options Team and The Living Room addiction recovery centre.

Hightown Chief Executive, David Bogle said:  “This is a significant milestone for Kent House, and I would like to take a moment to thank all of the team there who have worked tirelessly to provide residents with the care and support they need to help get their lives back on track. There is a real need to provide safe, affordable housing not just in St Albans, but throughout the whole of the UK, and we remain committed to doing all that we can to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.”

Since opening in 1997, Kent House has supported hundreds of local people to rebuild their lives and find stable accommodation. Two residents have provided insight into how the hostel helped to transform their lives.

Case study - Laura

After suffering domestic violence, Laura became addicted to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Laura said: “I initially went to a Women’s refuge before staying with family, but things didn’t work out as I became alcohol dependent. I then started sofa-surfing with friends.”

Laura placed her daughter in foster care, while she looked for help. With support from drug and alcohol support service Change Grow Live, she was placed in Kent House, where she stayed for five months.

Now, thanks to the support from staff at Kent House, she has now moved into her own home and has started her own cleaning business.

Laura said: “The staff have been fantastic supporting me. To be somewhere so secure, and to have the roof over my head and be able to concentrate on getting well has been fantastic. Without the help of staff at Kent House, I don’t know where I would be right now.”

Laura was also reunited with her daughter on her third birthday. “It was fantastic - to have her back, I just feel whole again. I knew she would come back to me eventually. I just needed the space to be able to get better and the staff at Kent House helped so much. Places like Kent House can help you get out of trouble and get back on your feet.”

Laura is continuing to grow her cleaning business and hopes to become self-employed in the future. She is also using her experiences to become a mentor and help others who are suffering from addiction.

Case Study - Rhys

Rhys found himself homeless, sofa surfing and sleeping rough before he was placed in Kent House. While staying at the hostel, Rhys received training and support to give him both professional and life skills. He completed an IT training course and learnt to drive.

Rhys has now left Kent House and moved into a flat of his own. He is currently enrolled at Oaklands College doing a course in bricklaying, carpentry and plumbing.

Rhys said: “I’m really grateful for everything the staff at Kent House have done for me – it wouldn’t be possible without their help. I’m enjoying learning new skills at college, my ambition is to become a bricklayer and then one day have my own business. My life is on track now.”

Hightown currently runs three projects designed to provide support and accommodation for homeless people in the St Albans area – Kent House, Open Door, and Martin House. Together, these projects provide safe accommodation for up to 52 people, and offer bespoke support, advice and services, to provide the necessary social, professional and life skills to facilitate a move into independent living and/or employment.

The work Hightown carries out has been found to save public services such as the NHS, police and local authorities almost £600,000 a year, according to an independent study carried out by RSM Consulting in 2016.