Leatherhead Night Hostel (LNH) was established in 1977 by the Leatherhead Council of Churches, following inspiration from Lady Anne Hayter who brought the vision for a hostel for the homeless to Mole Valley and became a founder member of the Board of Trustees.
It was the only emergency direct access night shelter in East Surrey and one of only three night hostels in the county.
The building, owned until recently by Mole Valley District Council who provided a grant to cover the rent, is an Edwardian three-storey semi-detached house located in Leatherhead town centre where residents can easily access other support agencies.
Thirty four years ago LNH was a traditional night shelter offering bed, food and clothing, a listening ear and, after a week or so, a telephone call to other hostels for another spell of the same before they returned to LNH and the cycle began again.
The original staff team in 1977 was one woman (Sue Fuller) and her dog (Jet). The management system consisted of a card file with names and a long list of dates in and out. At the time, this was an innovative service for Surrey.
Over the years the hostel building was extended to provide better communal accommodation and the staff team developed into a well motivated, experienced and committed team with a housing and welfare worker, a tenant support service and a rent deposit scheme.
The introduction of Supporting People funding with its attendant monitoring and regulation brought about an up-grade in management process and accountability. As a result, LHN achieved much in the battle to stall the revolving door of homelessness and help its clients achieve better health, stability and a home or just make a small change to prepare for a longer journey.
For many years, LNH has provided a service of quality and integrity. It has been ahead of its time in offering pleasant and comfortable surroundings: carpets and soft furnishings rather than utilitarian fittings; a friendly face to open the front door rather cameras and speakers.
It has developed a person-centred approach to helping each resident benefit the most from the service and a rigorous practice of risk assessment of referrals to ensure that the hostel offers the best chance of a place of respite and recovery where clients feel safe.
Need for Change
For several years, the hostel trustees had been exploring prospects for improving and developing the Leatherhead Night Hostel building to benefit its clients. With crowded, shared rooms and dilapidated kitchens and bathrooms, it simply was not fit for purpose.
Clients with high support needs had difficulties sharing dormitories and homeless men were often turned away when there were vacancies in the women’s dormitory.
Then, along came the Places of Change Programme…