09:00AM, Thursday 13 February 2020
A charity which is a ‘family’ for the town’s most vulnerable people will close its King Street base next month.
The Brett Foundation drop-in centre has been situated in the street since 2012 but has faced an uncertain future over potential developments at the Nicholsons Centre and car park.
Sue Brett, the charity’s founder, said ‘not knowing’ what the future holds has prompted its decision to close the centre, with the uncertainty forcing the charity’s wider plans to all but ‘grind to a halt’.
The foundation leases the centre from the Royal Borough.
Sue said: “It’s never been a secret that we’re in a part that’s going to be knocked down and redeveloped. We’ve known that for about three or four years, so it’s always been there in the back of our mind.”
She added: “We decided that we would say, the end of March, that was it, we will close the doors and we will look for our own place which is ours. We’re not beholden to anybody else then.”
The charity now plans to go ‘back to basics’, helping people on the streets in the evenings, and Sue is optimistic about finding a new home by the end of the year.
“It frees us to move forward.
“Our plan was never just to feed people and that was it. It was always to offer support, to give people a choice to be able to move on if they could,” Sue said.
“We’ve got such big plans that we really have to have our own place, so that we can offer accommodation, employment, as well as the food. It’s all about supporting the whole.
“We see that as a café where we can employ the homeless, actually offer them proper employment with a wage.”
The drop-in centre is open Monday to Saturday 10am-noon for breakfast, and three nights a week for an evening meal.
Sue said: “We bring the community together; we don’t just look after the homeless.
“In our centre we have older people, we’ve got people with mental health as well as the homeless and they are a family and they look out for each other.”
Sue said the people using the centre are ‘nervous because it’s a change and the group of people we have don’t like change’.
She said: “They’re still going to be able to get food, they’re still going to be supported, we’re still going to be there picking them up.”
Cllr Ross McWilliams, lead member for housing, communications and youth engagement, said ‘charities are the people who can form close relationships with people on the ground’.
He said: “We’re always supportive of our charities, or our charitable partners who are working with us, or separately to support people in long-term solutions.”
He added: “In terms of our ongoing relationship with them it would be great if they could support what we’re doing at John West House [the centre for rough sleepers in Howarth Road].
“When they’ve decided what they want to do with their own offer, which is wider than just the homeless, we’ll see what that looks like.”
He added: “It’s just about making sure we’re all working together very closely.”
A spokeswoman from the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead said: “We have recently requested a meeting with The Brett Foundation to understand their future plans.”
She added: “We do not expect their current premises to be needed for redevelopment until next year.
“We have previously discussed an alternative option with The Brett Foundation and look forward to discussing this further with them soon.”
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