The Avenue Centre charity was founded by Avenue St Andrew’s Church in 1988, to support homeless families living in unsatisfactory, and crowded, bed and breakfast accommodation, with no space for their children to play. By the end of the nineties homelessness was not the issue it was, thanks to Government support, but families were still seriously distressed, with great needs requiring attention.
The Centre today still provides a place for families in crisis, referred to it by statutory agencies. Pre-school children play in an excellently equipped playroom, run by qualified staff, whilst their parents are supported in their own needs. Ofsted Reports praise its good leadership, and caring attitudes to parents and children.
The Centre provides respite for the parents and a place for them to meet each other, where friendships can grow and confidence be gained. With the help of dedicated staff they develop a wide range of skills, which have prepared some parents to apply for jobs they previously would not have had the qualifications or confidence for. Others have gained access to further education. Life skills are gained around budgeting, cooking and healthy eating, alongside First Aid, health and wellbeing. Peer support enables some to make lifestyle changes for the better, including giving up smoking. The snacks provided for children in the playroom follow healthy eating guidelines.
The Centre is unique in the city, and recognised as such by Southampton City Council, because its work is wholistic and because the families can remain with the Centre for as long as they need. Families are referred by Social Services or Health Professionals. The Centre can give advice on housing, health and benefits issues, and will accompany/advocate for parents at official meetings.
The Centre receives about 30% of its running costs from the City Council, but has to raise the rest of its approx. £70,000 per annum running costs itself. Charities such as Children In Need, the Henry Smith Foundation and the Lloyds Foundation fund the Centre generously through grants. It also receives donations from generous individuals and organisations. It is managed by the Trustees, who are all unpaid volunteers, so all money received goes directly to running the Centre.
For more details see the Avenue Centre website.