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Why awareness days matter…and how you can get involved…

Over recent years, there seems to have been an increasing number of awareness days.

These days generate interest around various issues and charities that may not always receive much attention. This month is one of those months where there are so many awareness days and weeks (focusing on some very important topics) that it is hard to know where to start!

When there’s so much going on, it’s worth asking why we bother having awareness days in the first place.

There can be many reasons, but broadly speaking these awareness days, weeks and months are a positive way of….
  • encouraging conversation. This helps people to feel more comfortable talking about their personal difficulties.
  • encouraging people who are struggling with various issues to seek the relevant support. Isolation can be one of the worst things when we’re facing challenges in our lives. Many visitors to the Hub come here to find a space in community where they can share their burdens and find support.
  • inspiring action. Better conversations mean we can find ways of moving forwards and working together to change our communities.
What we’re doing…

Here at the Hub, we use our events, blog and social media posts to focus on a specific topic of awareness each month.

We want to start conversations around many of the needs within our community that are often unseen. Harrogate can be a hard place to talk about our personal difficulties, because of the town’s reputation as a place of wealth, health, and wellbeing. Please do engage with us on social media and join in the conversation.

We also hope to champion the great work that support services are doing across the district, to which we often signpost our own service-users.

So here’s a quick look at some things going on in our community this month:

Self Care Week

The 12th-18th November marks Self Care Week. This year the theme is ‘choosing self care for life’. The NHS Self Care Forum have lots of useful resources on this subject. They define the term in this way:

Self Care is the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.

(Self Care Forum 2018)

North Yorkshire County Council also have some helpful info on their page about how you can look after yourself and your health.

We spoke to some of our volunteers and visitors and asked them for some tips on self care:

  • Try and get enough sleep
  • Mindfulness
  • Healthy diet
  • Allow yourself time to think
  • Do activities that you enjoy or are good at
  • Make some time to relax– you could have a nice hot bath!
  • Get help from support services when you need it
  • Find support systems and people you can trust
  • Participate in exercise
  • Get some fresh air

“Bear in mind that it’s different for everybody” explains one of our pastoral carers.

What do you do to look after your self? Let us know in the comments.

Days of Action Against Domestic Violence

The 16 Days of Action for the elimination of violence against women run from 25th November (White Ribbon Day) to 10th December.  The Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) are participating in Harrogate by having an information stall at Harrogate District Hospital on Tuesday 27th November.  IDAS will be there, alongside the Police, between 9.30am and 2.30pm and are able to offer advice and information about the services they offer in and around Harrogate.

Feel free to go along or call IDAS on their 7 day a week helpline number 03000 110 110.

You can find out more about the Hub’s partnership with IDAS here.

Carer’s Rights Day

This day takes place on the 30th November. Carer’s Resource are a great Yorkshire charity that provide support for carers. To mark this day, they are running an information session in Harrogate for professionals. It will be an opportunity for professionals to hear about the issues affecting carers from the perspective of parent carers, young carers, and carers managing work and care.

There are many other awareness days this month:
  • Anti-Bullying Week (12th-16th)
  • World Kindness Day (13th)
  • Purple Tuesday (13th) – a campaign to transform the shopping experience of disabled people.
  • World Diabetes Day (14th)
  • Alcohol Awareness Week (19th-25th) We’re heading to Harrogate Alcoholics Anonymous Open Forum Event to find out more about supporting those struggling with alcohol addiction.

Do you know of any others?

Let us know what you’ve been up to this month and what you’ve learnt from these awareness days.

If you are affected by any of the issues discussed, please do drop into the Hub for a chat. We’ll listen to you and help you find the right support for you.
Or if you work for support services in Harrogate and haven’t already been in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Written by Ella Green

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The Hub and Harrogate – Join the conversation – Part 2

In Part 2 of our discussion, we’re going to be looking at some specific unmet needs in our town.

Please comment, share, or get in touch and tell us your thoughts on the needs in the Harrogate district. (You can check out Part 1 of the discussion here.)

Loneliness

Loneliness exists in all ages but predominately affects the elderly and the young people in the district.

In a UK survey of over 1000 GPs, more than three quarters said they were seeing 1-5 lonely people a day.  (Campaign to End Loneliness, 2013).

According to recent research by the Yorkshire Post in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness, three quarters of people in Yorkshire and the Humber say that they have suffered with loneliness. ‘Minding the Gaps’ (2014) uncovered high-risk levels of drinking, pornography, mental illness, and loneliness in Harrogate. And the ‘Vital Signs’ report (published by Two Ridings Community Foundation, 2017) also showed that loneliness is one of the prime needs within Harrogate.

Loneliness is in fact the most common reason that people visit the Harrogate Hub. 30% of visits between January and June 2018 were made by people primarily seeking company. They are usually socially isolated, feel overwhelmed by their problems, don’t know where to turn, and/or how to access the specialist services and community groups that would benefit them.  This statistic does not include the many other service-users who visited mainly for another reason, but for whom loneliness is also a daily challenge they face.

Discussion point:  Is there more the churches and community can do to help combat loneliness? For example, is there a need for a co-ordinated buddying/befriending service reaching into people’s homes?

Young People and Mental Health

A large and growing body of research shows that good mental health is essential for individual wellbeing, for a happy, healthy society, and for a prosperous economy. Unfortunately, mental health problems are on the increase, with a rising demand on services and increasing complexity of need.

1:4 young people are struggling in this area. The Local Health Authority’s publication states:

“The population of young people under 19 in Harrogate District is 40,445. There are estimated to be 4645 children and young people between the age of 5 and 19 with a mental disorder. Some 6,800 are estimated to need some support from a professional other than a trained mental health worker, e.g. school nurse, teacher, youth justice worker, whilst 580 are estimated to need support from a specialist CAMHS and a further 25 require inpatient care.”

In total, there appear to be 12,050 young people in the district who have mental ill-health issues.

This is an alarming statistic – over 1:4 (Details from the document – Harrogate and Rural district CCG Transformation Plan for Children and Young People’s Emotional and Mental Health 2015-2020)

Self Harm
  • Of the young people with mental ill-health, 1:4 girls are self-harming and 1:8 boys.
  • In adults 1:4 are suffering from depression, breakdown, sadness etc.
  • There is a 9 month wait time for access to Harrogate district therapeutic services, including Wellspring.
  • It is estimated by mental health professionals that 1 in 4 girls will self-harm before they leave school.
  • Hospital admissions in England are at a 5 year high for girls aged 10-14, showing a 93% increase. (4 May 2015)
  • Self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls (under the age of 17) in the UK increased by 68% over just three years.
  • Around 13% of young people may try to hurt themselves on purpose at some point between the ages of 11 and 16, but the actual figure could be much higher.
  • In 2014, figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/18/self-harm-girls-aged-13-to-16-rose-68pc-three-years

https://girlsoutloud.org.uk/self-harming-why/

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/get-information/the-facts/self-harm-statistics

Discussion point: How can the churches be better equipped to work with young people in a preventative capacity and work in partnership with the local health authority and education? Can the churches resource, through the Hub, a system of mentoring young people who are needing support? Do the churches need to be better trained and equipped to reach out to people struggling with mental illness?

Isolation in Families living with Autism

There appears to be a need for church Activities that are “Autism Family Friendly”. Further information is being collated in partnership with Carers’ Resource.

Helen Prince from Carers’ Resource writes:

“The most up-to-date info on the district that I have is from November 2016 – at that time the GP surgeries in Harrogate and Rural District had 617 children (0-18) with an autism diagnosis. There would also be a large number who were suspected to have ASC but not yet diagnosed.

At Carers’ Resource we have nearly 400 families on our database who are caring for a child with autism. All of these families have felt sufficient pressure to reach out and ask for help from us as a charity.

Having a child with autism is extremely isolating. For many families, there have been years of wondering what is wrong, why your parenting doesn’t seem to be right, why everyone else has a child who will join in at the playgroup, play nicely with the other children, try the food, heed warnings etc. For a long time, you wonder what is wrong with you as a parent before you even start the arduous journey of wondering if your child has additional needs and trying to find the right help.

It is much easier not to leave the house than endure the stares and disapproval as your child has a melt-down in the supermarket. Why not just shop online? Santa’s grotto is a sensory nightmare for most autistic children, so you don’t put them through anything like that. Increasingly you find yourself staying at home where you can control the environment, the food, the routine because that is the only way your child seems able to cope.”

Discussion point: What can churches do to support families living with autistic children?

Isolation in the Business Community

Many business people in Harrogate are struggling and I am sure would welcome regular visits from volunteer ‘chaplains’. Volunteer chaplains could operate from the Hub calling into businesses enquiring on employers and employees, asking about their well-being and for any prayer needs.

According to the charity MIND, in any given year, in Britain, one in six workers experience depression, anxiety or stress. It costs the UK economy £26 billion a year. In total, 70 million working days are lost every year due to mental ill health. And 10 million of these working days are directly caused by work-related problems. On average, we spend 10.5 years of our lives at work. Shouldn’t those years be happy and fulfilled? Business chaplains could make a big difference to the individuals affected and to the overall economy of Harrogate.

Discussion point: Are the local churches able to provide volunteers for chaplaincy training with a commitment to providing a service to the business community?

Isolation in the LBGT+ community 

North Yorkshire has no provision for supporting and advising people identifying with gender difference.

A 2010 report by LGBT Youth Scotland (Challenging Homophobia Together)

The report noted that homophobic bullying creates additional physical and mental health risks for those who identify as LGBT. This includes increased rates of substance abuse, lack of adequate sexual health knowledge, physical violence, and isolation. This isolation reaches all areas of life, from the possibility of homelessness when coming out to family members, to a higher rate of mental health issues due to homophobia, and the inability to freely express oneself. Social relationships are built on trust earned through perceived commonality and experiences. Therefore, when LGBT young people and children of LGBT families cannot divulge their identities and home life to peers, their relationships suffer, leading to further social isolation.

Discussion point: How can the local churches and community offer support to the LGBT+ community? The Hub could be a venue for a support network.

Partnership

The Hub is working alongside the district’s civic sector, health providers and 3rd sector providers. These sectors are increasingly showing a desire to work more closely together with Harrogate churches to consider local needs and how they can be addressed locally.

Thank you so much taking the time to read these blogs based on our discussion paper. It is designed to be helpful in shaping our thinking into action. We’d love for you to join in the conversation!

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes 

Special thanks to Ella Green (co-worker) and Helen Prince (Carer’s Resource) for help compiling the discussion paper

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The Hub and Harrogate – Join the conversation – Part 1

In our next blog posts, we want to start a conversation about how we can work together to respond to the unmet needs in Harrogate.

These blog posts are based on a discussion paper we have put together. We’re going to be sharing some of our own findings as well as the research of other organisations.

This discussion paper is an attempt to open up the conversation on how best the Christian church and local community can serve our area, enabling everyone in Harrogate to flourish. The needs within the town and district are a cause for general concern and a reason for everyone to join in the discussion on resourcing and meeting the needs of the ‘not so’ minority that impact us all.

Please comment and share your thoughts with us, and do get in touch if you feel passionate about finding solutions to some of the problems we’ve raised in our discussion. In this blog post (part 1), we will introduce the bigger picture and the issues that we see in the lives of people visiting the Hub. Then we will focus in on some specific needs in part 2, which we’ll be publishing in the near future.

Jesus said “This is my command: Love each other.” John 15: 17

Government Policy
CIVIL SOCIETY STRATEGY: BUILDING A FUTURE THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

This government paper was published in August (2018) and speaks about the importance of working together strategically:

“A healthy, independent and influential civil society is a hallmark of a thriving democracy. Charities and social enterprises – the social sector – are the core of civil society. A strong social sector is a sign of a strong democracy, which offers many ways in which citizens’ views and concerns can be communicated to decision-makers.

The government is keen to work alongside the social sector to build a future in which the sector can adapt and thrive, strengthen public trust, as well as find new ways to resource and deliver their work. The government is determined that charities and social enterprises should be fully confident in their right to speak in public debates.”

Introduction to the Harrogate Hub

‘Minding the Gaps’, a survey of the Harrogate area undertaken by St Mark’s Church in 2014, uncovered many needs in Harrogate, including high-risk levels of drinking, pornography, mental illness, and loneliness.

The Harrogate Hub provides a place of welcome from our centre at 39 Oxford Street. Our team of trained pastoral carers, recruited from Christian Churches in Harrogate district, provide a listening ear and non-judgmental support, befriending and walking along-side those in need. We also provide practical help, such as filling in forms and sign-posting to specialist services, churches, and community groups when relevant. We are here to help anyone regardless of their age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. The Hub is a safe space for people to find support and share the issues they may be facing.

The Harrogate Hub has been welcomed by local charities, churches, businesses, and civic organisations, and we are working alongside them to respond to the unmet needs of Harrogate. Our aim is to facilitate local churches working together with the third and public sector to help mind the gaps in provision and pool resources to serve the most vulnerable people in our community. We have good relationships with different organisations, enabling us to find service-users the best and most relevant support for them. We have sign-posted people to a variety of different support services so far, including IDAS, CAP groups, the Food Bank, and many others.

Over the past 12 months we have been serving our neighbour…

Total Number of Beneficiaries: 164 service-users over 12 months.

Primary Reasons for Visits: Between January and June 2018:
  • 30% of visits were made by people primarily seeking company.
  • 22% of our service-users came to the Hub primarily for support as they navigate relationship and family issues.
  • 19% came in primarily for support due to mental illness.
  • 7% were facing financial difficulties and were in need of signposting.
  • 5% requested spiritual support or guidance.
  • 4% sought advice and help for housing issues.
  • 3% sought support due to (un)employment issues.
  • 10% came to the Hub for other reasons, including grief and loss, assistance with form-filling, and other signposting enquiries.
Issues faced by service-users:
  • Approximately 3% of our service-users have had a history of drug/alcohol abuse and have come out of rehabilitation
  • Over 25% of service-users are struggling with mental health problems
  • 9% of visits in June 2018 related to housing issues, 3% to unemployment and 3% to finance.
  • Approximately 10% of our regular visitors are/have been in an abusive relationship.
Regularity of Support:
  • Many of our beneficiaries come regularly and have a variety of complex needs. In June 2018, for example, 58% of our beneficiaries came into the Hub on a regular basis for on-going support from pastoral carers. (42% were new beneficiaries).
  • Approximately 25% of our service-users have extremely complex needs and severe/chronic mental health problems. We will walk alongside these people for as long as necessary, sometimes this might be for as long as 1 to 2 years.
  • We estimate that about 10% of our service-users require regular support for more than 6 months (this is not including those whose visits are highly intermittent.)
  • Other service-users require only 1-3 visits in order to find the support and signposting they need.
Between January and June 2018:
  • 7% of our service-users required support over the period of 1-2 months.
  • 65% of visitors were first-time visitors, and 35% were return visitors. These return visitors accounted for 280 visits, which is 80% of visits. This demonstrates the great need for long-term support.
  • 12% of our service-users visited the Hub on an intermittent basis, often due to the difficult and chaotic nature of their lives, and have been coming for more than 6 months.
  • We estimate that 10% of our service-users came on a weekly or fortnightly basis, half of whom visited the Hub over a period of more than 3 months.
Outcomes
  • Out of the total of 83 visits in June 2018, 77 (93%) of visit forms record that the beneficiary felt lighter in mood when they left, having received the support they needed. 5 visits recorded the person felt the same as when they came in. (These beneficiaries receive on-going support for complex needs).1 record did not say.
  • 83% of forms recorded a positive answer to the question “Did we help?” (The other 17% did not leave an answer.)
  • In June, we helped 20% of our service-users access support or resources from other agencies. For example, finding housing, helping with forms, signposting.
  • The fact that 80% of visits (January-June 2018) were made by return visitors is a positive indicator. It shows that our service-users feel welcomed into the Hub community and are finding our support beneficial.
  • 6 service-users have become happily engaged in a church of their choosing and have found community there. 2 other service users are currently talking about joining an Alpha course in the Autumn.
Signposting to Christian Church Activities in Harrogate and District – Current Church Provision

The churches across Harrogate engage in the following activities adding approximately £1,000,000 per annum to the borough’s economy.

Christian Church Activities (by type) Weekly sessions across Harrogate churches
Carer and Toddler 16
Coffee Mornings 8
Lunch Groups 10
Adult Activities 26
Youth Groups 28
Family Activities 10
Illness and Disability 10
Debt 3
Hunger 3

 

Questions to explore
  1. Could the churches be more strategic in targeting their resources in supporting the crisis of needs within Harrogate and District?
  2. What can be done to help Harrogate’s Health Authority combat its issues of loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health?

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes, Executive Director, Harrogate Hub

Special thanks to Ella Green (co-worker) and Helen Prince (Carer’s Resource) for help with compiling the discussion paper

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Journeys at the Harrogate Hub – insights from Jo-Ann, the Director

Sarah’s* Journey

Sarah came to the Hub a year ago. She was very honest about her mental health difficulties and found engaging in social situations extremely challenging. Sarah needed to feel safe. Her diagnosis of her mental disorder is characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand reality. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, hearing voices that others do not, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation.

Since attending the Hub, Sarah has become more relaxed and has a greater sense of peace. She says she feels valued and accepted, safe and peaceful. Without the Hub Sarah says her life is fraught with loneliness which isolates her with her voices. Sarah has increased motivation and engages well with pastoral carers at the Hub. Sarah is not as confused as she used to be and regularly tells us she is happy and well.

Sarah’s journey is a long one with carers at the Hub. They are walking beside her, enabling her to feel loved, valued and secure. Without this she would be continually filled with anxiety and confusion. Instead she has found compassion, love and a safe space.


Ben* started his journey with the Hub over a year ago.

Ben was signposted to us by his CPN. He arrived one day feeling very subdued and suicidal. Life for Ben is not straightforward. His story is one of loss, betrayal, illness and breakdown. Ben is in his fifties. He lost all real purpose in his life when he became ill and his wife began seeing someone else while continuing to live in the family home. Ben’s story is one of confusion and sorrow as he comes to terms with his loss; the loss of his physical health, his mental illness, and the love of his life abusing his situation. She is verbally aggressive and shows no care for his feelings. Unable to make clear decisions and being too unwell to take any action, Ben has suffered greatly. Each week he has sought strength form the pastoral carers at the Hub.

Over the weeks and months, Ben has begun to understand God’s love for him. He is taking strength from beginning a new journey to a new life, even though the old life is still very present. The Hub and its carers are providing a strength that is gradually enabling Ben to see beyond his current situation. He is realising there is a better future ahead.

We continue to support Ben each week on this journey to wellness. He no longer feels his life is hopeless but is now more hopeful, but remains quite fearful of his future. As he gets stronger he is beginning to accept that he is worth so much more than he thought when he first came to us for help. He no longer feels despair.


William and his wife Louise* have recently moved into the area to be close to family.

Louise has dementia and William called into the Hub to find out what support was available for them in the district. He spoke of how lonely he was and how difficult it was for him to have time to do things and go shopping or do the banking. He was lonely for conversation too. Louise loved being in the company of others and engaging in crafts.

The Hub was able to signpost him to several day centres for people with dementia thanks to the work of Dementia Forward; talk to him about Caring for the Elderly and their fun day’s out; and tell him of a private care provider working in the area who could provide respite when he needed to go out.

William was delighted that there was so much in the district to help him care for Louise. He left feeling both relief and joy. We asked him to call in again for a cuppa and conversation as we would be happy to see them both again.


Some of our journeys are very long as we walk with people trying to rebuild their lives from painful and often very messy beginnings.

We are reminded that Jesus never gives up on us. It cost him all he had to walk life’s pathway with us.

“If your brother asks you for your coat,” Jesus advised, “give him your tunic as well. If you ask God for a fish, would he give you a stone? Go and do likewise.”

So here at the Hub we do. We journey with the lost, the lonely, the broken and marginalised for as long as it takes and we are making a difference.

If after reading these journeys you would like to volunteer to be a pastoral carer at Harrogate Hub, please get in touch with us as we would love to hear from you. We provide training and fellowship as you journey with us.

Email: harrogatehub@gmail.com  Tel: 01423 369393

* names have been changed for confidentiality

 

Written by Jo-Ann Hughes, Executive Director, Harrogate Hub

Edited by Ella Green

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Youth Loneliness: what’s really causing it?

Recently, there has been a growing awareness of and political interest in loneliness as a significant social problem.

At the Hub, we want to continue to raise awareness of this issue that affects our whole community. (You can check out our previous blog posts on this important subject here.)

In the past, reports have focused on the social isolation of older age groups, perhaps due to our ageing population. Yet contrary to assumptions about loneliness being a consequence of ageing, it seems that young people are at the epicentre of the crisis. A recent study says that young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older age groups.

The research found that almost 10% of people aged 16 to 24 were “always or often” lonely – the highest proportion of any age group.

(The Office for National Statistics)

So why is this happening? The common conclusion jumped to by the media and politicians alike is that social media is the root of this problem. And thus social platforms like SnapChat and Instagram are vilified, as well as the youth themselves, who can’t seem to drag themselves away from lit-up phone screens. But is this really the main issue? Author and campaigner Natasha Devon MBE suggests that “it’s easier to park every teenage mental health concern with social media – then nobody is to blame.”

The subject of loneliness is sometimes defined as “a discrepancy between what you want in terms of social relationships and what you have.” Social media unfortunately widens the gap between this desire and reality as teens feel the pressure to succeed in every area of life, including friendships. But it’s hard to find the time to focus on school, friendships, extra-curricular activities and family life. Many teenagers feel they are failing to achieve the standards required of them in our busy society. Often at least one of these areas is overlooked in favour of prioritising academic success.

“62-70% of teenagers say it really matters to them what grades they get”. They want to “make their parents proud”, says Natasha Kizzie, an executive director of the National Citizen Service. “They’re far more engaged. They’re highly preoccupied by their academic performance and their future job prospects.”

This means that they spend less time building meaningful and supportive relationships. Social media lowers rates of face-to-face contact, which can harm a child’s communication and social skills. Without a trusted support network, many teenagers may find themselves lost and without guidance when facing personal struggles.

So how are we working to bring about change?

Since the Hub opened in January, we’ve had people of all ages, from 18 to 90, coming through our doors. At the Hub, our pastoral carers provide a listening ear and friendship. Our welcome centre is a safe environment for those feeling isolated to share the challenges of life and find community. We understand that anyone can feel lonely or isolated. And we recognise the damaging impact it can have on both your life and your health.

But now we’d like to reach out further to the isolated youth in our community. The Hub soon hopes to open its doors for an evening a week to provide pastoral care to young people. We want to give love and care to those who are facing challenges at home, struggling with school, or suffering from a severe loss of self-esteem.

‘Young people are the hope for the future in the making.’

‘They need to be shown that they matter, that they are valued’, says Jo-Ann Hughes, Hub Executive Director. ‘They need positive role models who demonstrate how to develop healthy attitudes and caring relationships. All too common now is the issue of self-harm and anxiety. Our youth need to know who to trust, where to turn for healthy advice and reassurance. This is why we would like to open our doors to teenagers for safe mentoring at the Harrogate Hub.’


What do you think are the causes of youth loneliness? Join the conversation on our twitter, facebook, or instagram page…
Would you, your youth group, or business like to fundraise for our youth project? Please get in touch and we can send you our fundraising pack, and share more about our work with you. Or if you would like to volunteer as a pastoral carer, we’d love to hear from you.

 

Written by Grace Hart

Edited by Ella Green

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A day in the life of the Harrogate Hub – find out what happens behind the scenes!

Ever wondered what a day at the Hub looks like?! Well here’s a glimpse behind the scenes….
The day starts at 9am. 

I’m too short to reach the lock on the Hub front door, so I have to clamber up the wall slightly. (I get a few funny looks from passers-by.) Jo-Ann, the Hub Director soon joins me in the office and we begin with prayer to prepare us for the day ahead.

9.30am A day in life, Harrogate Hub, Biscuits

Our pastoral carers start to arrive. Today Gwen arrives first – she’s our biscuit-hero and she’s brought a new batch of biscuits for our visitors to enjoy. This makes me very happy (because I get to enjoy them too!) I recommend coming in to try one of her biscuits (or several!)…She’s become quite famous in Harrogate for her baking talents.

10am

Laughter drifts down the stairs from the middle floor. You can always tell when Lynda and Benny have arrived in the building -they bring a lot of joy with them! They are both pastoral carers and they’ve come to set up for the “Real You” course they’re running.

Our regular visitors arrive soon after for the course. These are a group of women who have faced huge challenges in their lives, and each of them have begun a healing journey at the Hub; some have been coming for a few weeks, and some for months. They’ve joined the course to explore questions of identity, faith and self-worth. It’s been amazing to see them grow in self-esteem and friendship over the weeks and months.

Meanwhile, downstairs in our welcome centre, visitors start to arrive for pastoral care. Gwen, Jo-Ann and I are busy welcoming people through the door and making cups of tea and coffee. There’s a real buzz as people start to engage in lively conversation; people are smiling and starting to open up. Jo-Ann sits on the sofa with a young woman having a heart-to-heart, and on our table, we’re talking about our hobbies, whilst enjoying some free entertainment from a curious toddler who’s taking in all the new sights and sounds.

Some have come to the Hub simply for company and friendship, others have stories of grief, mental illness, abuse, and hardship to share and are in need of a listening ear, and some come wanting to find out what activities are being offered by local community groups and churches. It’s good to see people’s spirits lifting as they receive kindness and attention; it feels like there’s a real sense of hope and warmth in the room. We have 7 visitors in all, one of whom has returned specially to thank us for the way we’ve helped someone in her family.

12.00

It’s time to close for lunch (although I’m not massively hungry due to my biscuit consumption…) Once everyone has left, Gwen, Jo-Ann and I spend a few minutes praying. Some of the stories we hear are really heartbreaking and so our prayer time gives us a chance to lay down any burdens we’re carrying.

Someone knocks on the Hub door even though we’re closed and Jo-Ann has to apologise and ask him to come back at 2pm. We’re in the process of rearranging our pastoral care timetable to ensure that we can help as many people as possible. It’s always hard having to turn people away, but we haven’t yet got enough volunteers to be able to keep the Hub open all day. (If you’d like to become a pastoral carer, please get in touch!)

1pm

After lunch, Jo-Ann heads off for a meeting with the Harrogate Borough Council to discuss how we can bless them as they serve town. It’s an exciting opportunity to find out how we can work together to make sure that no one in our community feels forgotten, hopeless, or isolated.

2pm

At the Hub, we have a slightly quieter afternoon. Carol and Sherry are our pastoral carers for the 2-4pm session. A couple of people have made appointments with them and come in for a confidential conversation in the little room at the back. And one of our regular visitors also comes in for a cuppa and a chat; our volunteers are helping her build her confidence and take steps towards her goals at a time when things are changing in her life.

Whilst Carol and Sherry welcome visitors downstairs, I spend the afternoon in the office to plan a talk about the Hub that I’m giving at a local youth group. I’ll be sharing with them about our new youth project and asking them to join us in fundraising for it. The plan is to provide pastoral care to vulnerable young people on an evening at the Hub. If your youth group is interested in fundraising for the project or if you’d like to become a pastoral carer for the project, we’d love to hear from you.

3pm

We’re visited by one of the staff from Harrogate theatre. They’re putting on a show, ‘100 ways to tie a shoe lace’, which explores memory loss in a light-hearted and real way. It’s great to hear about shows like this, which help tackle issues that can sometimes be stigmatised in our community. Part of my job, as Charity Officer is to help raise awareness of the struggles faced by people in our town.

Harrogate has a ‘Happygate’ façade, which sometimes makes it hard for those who are struggling to seek the support they need. It’s easy to feel like everyone else is leading the perfect, idyllic Harrogate life, and so part of our mission at the Hub is to encourage people in our community that it’s ok to ask for help.

Everyone goes through seasons of great difficulty and we’re here for people whatever challenges they’re facing.

4pm

The Hub closes its doors, and Richard, one of our dedicated volunteers, starts cleaning and tidying up. I have a little chat with Carol and Sherry before they head off.

5pm

A day in the life, Harrogate Hub, open doorI’ve finished my work in the office and Richard has made the Hub look all sparkly, clean and tidy! On my way out, I clamber up the wall again to lock the Hub door (cue more funny looks from passers-by). It’s been a busy day, but a very positive one. It’s so encouraging to see that more people are hearing about the Hub’s services and finding a place of community and hope here.

If you could help us spread the word about the Hub, please drop in and pick up some of our posters or bookmarks. Or if you’re online, have a look at our social media pages, follow us, and share our news with your friends. Together, we can shape a community, where no one has to suffer alone and where everyone feels loved and valued.

twitter.com/thehubHG1   www.instagram.com/theharrogatehub/   www.facebook.com/TheHarrogateHub/

Written by

Ella Green

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“There’s more to life than current pressures” – Being a young person in Harrogate

Teenage years. Often labelled as awkward and slightly dysfunctional. You’re treated differently; you’re not quite an adult but you’re definitely not a child anymore. Pressures start with school, revision, homework, exams….

That’s not even to mention relationship issues, underage drinking, peer pressure, parties, puberty, social media and mental health. The list is endless.

Teenagehood? Perhaps it should be renamed teenage-should. Young people are often swamped by a constant instructions of ‘dos and don’ts’ that life throws at them. There’s a need to fit in and it’s hard to know how.

With the use of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, this ongoing pressure continues outside of the classroom.

A recent enquiry led by MPs and top children’s charities, revealed the addictive nature of social media. One in ten (9%) young people surveyed admitted to logging on after midnight every night and one young person said it was “almost like a drug”. Young people expressed that they feel “judged and inadequate if they didn’t have enough likes or followers.”

The enquiry also noted that young people who use social media a lot of the time are more likely to have ‘low wellbeing and symptoms of anxiety and depression.’

In fact, according to YoungMinds, 1 in 5 young adults and 1 in 10 children (that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom) have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

Rob is a youth leader and a local secondary school teacher from Harrogate. He said:

There is definitely an increase in exam stress and pressure to do well. This pressure often has a negative impact on social development.

And if schoolwork isn’t hard enough, he added: “Outside of the classroom, everything is focussed on phones, especially Snapchat. This has an adverse affect on teenagers’ perceptions on not only themselves but also the world around them.”

In a town like Harrogate, there’s not a lot for young people to do.

They can often get stuck in the ‘routine of life’ of school, homework, tea, social media, bed. Many young people don’t know how to talk about their problems and may isolate themselves or get stuck in a rut.

It is estimated that in the Harrogate and Rural District, there are 4645 children and young people between the age of 5 and 19 with a mental disorder. (Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group, 2015).

Rob sees young people struggling with society’s burdens everyday. He said: “I’d like to tell teenagers to remember that there is more to life than their current pressures and that no one should face issues alone. There’s always someone to talk to and the more we talk about it, the more these issues can be tackled together.”

The Hub soon hopes to open its doors on an evening once a week to provide pastoral care and mentoring support to young people. We want to show love and care to those who are struggling at school, facing challenges at home, or suffering from a severe loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.

 ‘Young people are the hope for the future in the making. They need to be shown that they matter, that they are valued’, says Jo-Ann Hughes, Hub Executive Director. ‘They need positive role models who demonstrate how to develop healthy attitudes and caring relationships. All too common now is the issue of self-harm and anxiety. Our children need to know who to trust, where to turn for healthy advice and reassurance. This is why we would like to open our doors to teenagers for safe mentoring at the Harrogate Hub.’

Could you help us provide support for young people?

We are looking for youth groups who want to give some of their time and creativity to fundraise for the Hub’s work with vulnerable young people. Through partnering with us, local young people will be helping to support their peers. Together we can see lives transformed across the community.

If you would be interested in fundraising for the work of the Harrogate Hub, would like to give on a monthly basis, or have experience in working with young people and would like to volunteer, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and find out about your heart for young people in Harrogate.

And if you have any further thoughts on the kinds of challenges facing teenagers in our local area, please do comment or engage with us on social media. We want to raise awareness of the hidden needs in our town to build a stronger, healthier community, where no one has to suffer in silence.

You can join the discussion on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

Written by Rachel Williams

Edited by Ella Green

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Harrogate Hub Annual Report

You can now read our 2017 Annual Report on the link below. Thank you to everyone who has supported the Hub in its first year of opening!

Harrogate Hub Annual Report 2017

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Overcoming Addiction in Harrogate – Gerson’s Story

This month we’ve been raising awareness of addiction issues.

And we’d love you to join in the conversation, so please do follow us and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. At the Hub, addiction is one of the most common issues that we are coming across in the lives of our visitors, and it can often be related to a variety of other complex issues. Like many of the needs in Harrogate, addiction is a problem that is often unseen, masked by the town’s reputation for being one of the happiest and wealthiest places in the North.

We are here to support people whatever they might be going through and to help them access the relevant and best support for them. This week Hub volunteer and broadcast journalist, Rachel Williams, interviewed local chef, Gerson, to find out his story of addiction.


Meet Gerson. He’s 37 years old, originally from London, now living in Harrogate and working as a chef for Bettys.

Gerson’s life wasn’t always like this. From the age of just 12 years old, he started drinking alcohol and taking drugs. For Gerson, this was just something that became part of him. Something he didn’t realise was happening.

As I waited for Gerson at the entrance of the Valley Gardens, a big booming voice shouted out of a car window “I’m just trying to find a car parking space…”

A few minutes passed.  “Sorry I’m late,” he said as he came towards me and waved, “I was dropping the Horizon lads off.”

Horizons is an integrated drug and alcohol recovery service for North Yorkshire. (You can read about our visit to Horizons here.)

Gerson explains: “Horizon is like a halfway house, people come from rehab and they get the opportunity to learn life skills that enable you to get back into the community and earn a living. I came through the programme, I went to rehab called Teen Challenge due to the drugs and alcohol I was taking. Whilst I was at Teen Challenge, I developed my interest in catering and I found out that Horizon could offer training in professional cookery.”

And that’s what led Gerson to Harrogate.

As we walked to find a bench, we chatted about the Churches we both attend and a mutual friend we both know. I couldn’t believe that the person I was talking to was the same as the man who was struggling and using drugs just a few years ago.

Gerson shared: “It started off in my early teens; I was drinking but it was only social.

I started skiving off school because of the drinking and the drugs; it just became part of me. I was a ‘functioning addict’ because I managed to go to work and hold down jobs. A lot of people wouldn’t even notice I was under the influence.”

Gerson’s usage worsened after the death of his brother in 1998. He said: “I was drinking and consuming to numb the pain. To get me through the pain I dove deeper into it, not realising that the deeper I dove, the more problems it created for me.”

The problem escalated and in 2011 Gerson hit rock bottom.

I asked him what his lowest point was. He took a moment,  “wow” he said, whilst thinking about what to say. “There’s been a few.”

In 2011, I was working with people ‘in the field’, who I thought we were my buddies – not knowing that they were plotting bad against me. The person I was working with actually got me set up and kidnapped. I was held at gunpoint by a group of men. That was my lowest point because I felt so small- smaller than an ant.

“It was like my manhood had been taken away from me. I didn’t trust my family, I didn’t trust my close friends I was suspicious about everybody.”

After this, he felt like there was nowhere to turn and he isolated himself for three months just consuming drugs and drinking. As is the case for a lot of users, the turning point wasn’t immediate.

He said: “It was like 2 years later in 2013 – things had started spiralling out of control and the problem was becoming very obvious.”

In June that year, Gerson started to address the problem.  

Gerson said: “I was at Stockwell Underground Station and somehow my sister, who was talking to me on the phone, knew where I was and found me. I was completely gone. I was so wasted.  She’s 4ft something and I’m quite big compared to her; how she managed to take me like a mile up the road to my mum’s house, I will never know.”

“She got me to my mums and that’s when my family stepped in.”

Gerson’s family put him under house arrest.  Everything that could get locked away was locked away. Gerson described what it was like to go through a detox. He said: “ I was rattling (detoxicating), everything was coming out of my system and it was horrible.”

He was laying down on the sitting room floor, when his elder brother came in and asked “Ok, what is it you want me to do?”

“I need help” Gerson replied.

Gerson said that admitting that he needed help was one of the hardest things.

He said: “For so many years, I kept telling myself I was alright. I saw psychiatrists, was put on antidepressants and other medication, but it never seemed to work.”

If it wasn’t for Gerson’s family sticking by him and intervening, he wouldn’t know where he’d be. It was his brother that told him his problem was spiritual. Gerson said: “When my brother said that I kind of wanted to laugh.”

Gerson’s parents are both Christians and have been for as long as he can remember. When he was growing up, he had to go to church but he explained he turned his back on it. He said: “I’ve always had knowledge of Christ but I’d never accepted him.”

Gerson’s brother introduced him to an outreach worker who was involved with Teen Challenge. They worked together to fill out an application form and he was offered a bed within three weeks. In that time, Gerson stayed at his brother’s house because his family were worried he might have one last ‘blow out’ before 18 months rehabilitation, which he found difficult. And this was how Gerson started to accept Jesus.

He said he thanks his family because if it wasn’t for them taking the steps that they had, he wouldn’t have got here.

He added: “Of course God’s involved in that, but I now know God used my family. The scriptures say that God has created a path for us and he knows where we are going to go and he put the pieces into place.”

Has it been an easy journey? No. Do I get temptations? Yeah, but then I look at what I’ve achieved: I’ve worked at Bettys for a year and half, which has been the longest job I’ve ever held. Everyone there is really happy and supportive.

If Gerson were to give advice to people currently caught up with addiction, it would be to use the passion that they put into getting the drugs and to use that same passion to stay off it. He said: “When you want to get that hit or that drink and you haven’t got the money, you go to any lengths to get it, so why not turn that around and put the passion elsewhere?”

He also added: “There’s a lot of help out there. More help than one actually realises- just pick up the phone”.

Gerson now knows to call his friends from church if ever he feels isolated or alone.

Reflecting on his relationship with drugs, he said: “When you’re involved with drugs, you don’t really care about the consequences, you’re more about the moment, which can be dangerous because you’re only focused on the now. Not for tomorrow, not for the future.

“And that was the life I was living in the past but since moving up here my life has been better, I’m really glad that I made that decision.”

That’s why charities like Horizon and the Harrogate Hub exist. When you feel like you’ve got nobody to turn to, we are here for you.

Just last year, Gerson was nominated for a ‘Good Egg’ award by his employers and he was shortlisted in the top ten. He told me that if someone had said that to him when he was at his lowest point, he would never have believed it. He said moving to Harrogate has changed his life for all the right reasons.

 


If you can relate to Gerson’s story, or perhaps you recognise some of the symptoms of addiction in yourself, please come and see us at Harrogate Hub. We would love to meet you and talk to you, and walk alongside you to get you the support you need.

 

Interview by Rachel Williams
Edited by Ella Green

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Horizon Life Training and Teen Challenge

Jo-Ann, Executive Director of the Hub, meets Andrea Croxson, Horizon Life Training Centre Manager

The Hub is working alongside some wonderful organisations that are bringing hope to Harrogate; Horizon Life Training and Teen Challenge are two of them. Teen Challenge collaborates with Horizon Life Training to help former addicts transform their lives. We had the fantastic opportunity to visit the Horizon Life training centre and find out more about these two Christian charities…

Andrea and Matthew are the first to meet us when we arrive at the office. They explain how addicts usually spend about a year at a Teen Challenge residential centre, where they receive the help they need to break free from addiction. Some of the young men who complete this programme then come to Horizon Life Training, where they live as community.

Here they find training and employment, with the chance to spend 2 and a half days a week doing college courses, with any extra support they might need. Andrea is passionate about the importance of education, “I really believe in education. There’s always more to learn!” At Horizon Life, the young men have the chance to learn a variety of valuable life-skills, from cooking, to studying maths, to joinery, and the list goes on. Andrea shows us round the building, which includes various units that businesses will soon start renting out, with a view to taking on guys at Horizon Life as workers. After completing their time at the centre, they are then able to go on and find employment.

“We also want to encourage the men to put their faith into action”, explains Matthew. Serving is an important part of everyday life at Horizon Life Training. Matthew runs Teen Challenge outreach, which the guys take part in once a week. This is where they take a trailer, serving teas and coffees, and go onto the streets to talk to people who are struggling with addiction.

“We haven’t learnt about addiction out of books”, says Matthew. “We understand what these people are thinking and feeling. We’ve been there, and there is a way out. When they hear our message, faith rises – they see that life can be different.”

As we sit chatting in the office, different men come in and talk passionately about the transformation they’ve experienced at Teen Challenge and Horizon Life. One man tells us, “I’m a free man in Christ”. He talks about his hopes and dreams for the future; he wants to start his own tiling business with the skills he’s learnt at Horizon Life. Jo-Ann offers him a tiling job at the Hub, where the bathroom still needs a bit of finishing off!

These are just the small beginnings of our partnership with Horizon Life and Teen challenge. It’s so encouraging to meet people in Harrogate who have such a huge heart for the lonely and lost. Something that Matthew says really sticks with me as we come away from our visit:

“Sometimes we don’t listen enough,” he says. “One of the key things you learn in communication training is simply to listen. The person has to learn to trust you. Sometimes I’ve had to listen to someone for a long time. As they talk, they start to get to the root of some of their issues. They’ve been through some deep, deep stuff. My response is to show them ‘You’re forgiven, you’re loved, you’re not judged.’”

That is actually a perfect description of what the Hub is here for; a place where people can share their struggles and heartache, knowing they will be heard by a kind, compassionate ear. “You’re loved” is exactly the message we want to share with everyone who comes through our doors.

 

By Ella Green, Charity Officer

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