The 7 Year Itch

We’re currently crowdfunding to raise support for our homelessness drop-in centre Basis@Gateshead. After 7  years on Gateshead High Street, we’re ecstatic to have finally received the keys to our new building. We say new with some hesitation, as the building most certainly isn’t that! There’s a lot of work to be done to transform it from an empty shell into a welcoming space for people sleeping rough in our community. We’re crowdfunding to help make this possible. So as we prepare to move, Phil Conn our Head of Crisis Services reflects on the highs and lows from our 7 years at 336 High Street Gateshead.

We’re crowdfunding in June and July to help kit out our new building for Basis@Gateshead. Visit our Crowdfunding Page.

The seven-year itch

The sevenyear itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after or around year seven. On the 11th April 2018, here at Oasis Aquila housing we celebrated 7 years since we opened Basis@Gateshead.

Reflecting on the seven-year anniversary of the date we started Basis I’m asking myself how I feel about the project; am I as happy in my relationship with Basis as I used to be? I started work with the charity earlier that year with the mandate to establish the project in Gateshead, and it has been a part of every single working day since. So, it might surprise some to hear that my answer to the question isn’t straightforward, my feelings complicated. There’s no question it has been a very interesting 7 years, I couldn’t have imagined the first time the doorbell rang the things the project would witness, be part of and contribute to. I certainly couldn’t have imagined how much the project would grow and how many members of staff we’d cram into the tiny offices originally created for 4 part-time members of staff.

There have been laughter and tears in almost equal measure. You probably would have to have worked there to fully appreciate how true that is. There have been more blocked toilets than any service should have to endure, floods and leaks that would test the resolve of the hardiest maintenance workers, we haven’t had central heating since 2012 and fresh air has been in short supply. I have a love/hate relationship with 336 High Street, the home of Basis@Gateshead since 2011; hate for some of the reasons listed above but love for many many more reasons. The building has welcomed over 4000 individuals, people who have been told a different story than perhaps they’d heard before. They’ve been told they’re cared about, that they have value and worth and that things can change and be transformed. It has been an immense privilege to be able to share that message with so many people. Amongst the thousands of conversations that have taken place we’ve heard some truly horrific things, but we’ve also heard about people’s hopes and dreams and crucially we’ve been able to play a role in making some of these dreams a reality.

We’ve seen scores of people enter the project with nothing but the clothes they’re barely standing up in, have their practical and emotional needs met, been patched up (metaphorically and often literally) and journeyed with on their road to wellness.

So to return the original question, am I as happy in my relationship with Basis after seven years? I’d have to say no. I’m deeply unhappy that Basis is busier than ever, the need for the service greater than ever. I’m unhappy that some people who first accessed the service in 2011 are still in need. I’m unhappy that homelessness exists on a far greater scale than it did in 2011.

But I’m happy that Basis is still there for people who are at their lowest.

So, after 7 years we begin our move into our brand new premises. I’ve sadly fallen out of love with 336 High Street.  I’ve many fond memories and I’m so proud of what has been achieved there, but a move is overdue and I’ve fallen for another building; a building that offers more and is certainly more attractive. Our new home will increase our ability to meet the needs of those who find themselves at our door. Things at Basis@Gateshead will change for the better, for the service and for those who use it. One thing that won’t change is that everyone who enters will be greeted with a warm smile, a hot cuppa and the promise of hope.

The number seven is one of the most significant numbers in the Christian Bible, it is considered the number of spiritual perfection, the number which is stamped on every work of God. While our work at Basis has been far from perfect there is no doubt in my mind that over the last seven years we’ve been doing God’s work.

We’re crowdfunding in June and July to help kit out our new building for Basis@Gateshead.

Visit our Crowdfunding Page.

““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – Isaish 58. 6-7

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