Later this month, if you are in Kingston, you may well see ‘For Sale Signs’ go up across the Kaleidoscope Site. The Church sadly closed late last year, whilst the hostel has become too expensive to develop and meet the needs of our current residents. In terms of the K2 building, it is being well used but not for our key purposes, so it too will be part of the sale.
The hostel was opened in 1977, and with the church created a unique community, which as a boy I was part of, living on the top floor with our family. The mix of people, staff, residents and church members created a really dynamic place to live, work and play. Meals in the early days were shared activities and of course into this mix came those who either attended our drug service, or a Friday Night Club or Saturday Disco. Today the hostel is very different, in part because staff no longer live in, the drug service is no longer present and the clubs have closed, as has the church. It would however be wrong to paint a gloomy picture, because we have a diverse and dynamic hostel team providing services to many more people than when we opened. In reality it is different. The hostel however, as a building is tired and we are frustrated that the experience we can give people is limited by this.
So what next, are we simply leaving Kingston?
Last week I met with Kingston Council about a new vision of services for vulnerable people. It was a very positive meeting with a real commitment to build integrated services with an emphasis on creating a dynamic community. At the meeting I affirmed our position, that we will use all the money from the sale of the hostel to re-provide in the borough.
The strength of community living is particularly important for vulnerable people who often find the maze of services they need to access too complicated. I believe you need services where people can meet and to be with each other but at the same time provide a home where you can close the door to the outside world. A balance is vital, because we need to avoid isolation leading to loneliness but we also need to give people a sense of their own identity and privacy when community gets too much.
So central to our search for new premises within the borough will be to work with partners to create a place that fosters community living where food preparation can be shared, community meeting spaces are available, treatment for issues they may face is nearby but also their own room, with facilities so they can also have privacy when they most want it. I believe this can be created. This may not be immediately and we may need to look at some temporary options, but we must ensure we are heading in the direction that ensures we can create the best possible options to the people we serve in the medium to long term.