I started working for The Wellspring charity around 15 years ago. I remember my first day very clearly. I walked up to the back of the building where one of the then management committee had arranged to meet me. I was a little early so sidestepped the 2 rather large dead rats in the car park and sat on the wall and waited for my colleague to arrive.
Once inside I asked to see the policy and procedures file “Erm we don’t have one” Oh ok, can I see the office? “Erm we don’t have one” Computer? “Nope” Phone? “Nope” Pen and paper it is then…
In my first week we had a management committee meeting at which I asked for a computer. a 2 hour debate then took place with the committee deciding to “make a decision at next months meeting” today in 2015 we now have 25 computers!
Training room at The Wellspring Harvey St 2015.
Now I don’t want to sound overly critical of that great bunch of well meaning dedicated people, they really put their heart and soul in to The Wellspring. That was very clear to see, but it was also clear that I was going to need a plan!
The first year in that shabby old building was difficult, the building was falling to bits, was almost impossible to keep clean, it was very poorly equipped and almost everything in it had seen better days. however by far the most challenging thing was the client group. In my first year I phoned the police at least twice, sometimes 10 times everyday. Dozens of fights, incidents with knifes and shot guns. It seamed that there were 2 client groups at The Wellspring back then, those that genuinely needed a service and had nowhere else to go and those that were intent on causing trouble and that was the sole reason they were there. Over a few months rules were put in place and a membership system brought in alongside dozens and dozens of barring’s, which did not exactly make me Mr Popular. But by far the most important thing I feel I achieved was to start supporting and guiding the people who I felt I could help. Getting people rehoused, supporting people to get clean from drugs or drink, starting a clothing service, starting educational courses and support groups,sign posting to other vital services and doing much of what we do today just on a smaller scale. In my first year I rehoused 35 people. News began to spread that Wellspring could help people off the streets.
At my initial interview I was informed that Wellspring has just acquired a new building and that they needed staff to work in it and help set it up. Going back to that first day “Oh by the way, we’ve lost the new building, so you will have to work from here till we find another” 8 years later we moved in to our new home on Harvey street.
People who I talk to about those old times often say that they miss the old building, its cosy tatty feel, its run down overused basic appearance. I don’t miss it one little bit, it was horrid, the only good thing about it was the people I met and the things I achieved from that building.
Waiting all that time for the new building did have its plus points. I was able to design it and make it exactly as I wanted. finally in the last few months I have at last got the building both looking and functioning as I wanted all those years ago when I made my plan.
The new building is dynamic and modern, functional, bright and welcoming. its not quite perfect but it will be in years to come.
we’ve been in the new building for nearly 7 years now and we’ve phoned the police in an emergency 3 times. In 2014 The Wellspring was awarded The Queens award for voluntary service which is the equivalent of an MBE for the organisation. This is the highest national honour that a service with 5 paid staff can possibly achieve. The award brings home how far the organisation has come and how much it has achieved.
I do feel that my biggest achievement at The Wellspring has been hand picking and building the team we have in place today. Our staff team is in my opinion one of the very best in any homeless service in the UK. I thoroughly enjoy working alongside these people and I look forward to what we are going to achieve in the future.
I have many aspirations for the future of The Wellspring and I am currently working with my Directors in order to achieve these. My biggest aspiration for The Wellspring is to provide our own accommodation. This would really push the charity on to the next level. Hopefully with some hard work and determination this aspiration will come good within the next 2 years.