March 2017 Michael House homeless hostel is going from strength to strength, fulfilling its aim to see lives restored and winning several awards in the process. Now thanks to the Room to Reward scheme, staff have been able to thank two of the people who give up their free time to help them with short breaks for two.
Tracey Harrison became involved with Michael House in the course of her work as a community champion for Waitrose, Christchurch, but her enthusiasm has driven her to use much of her free time too.
She felt inspired by her first visit to the project. “There was so much going on. Mark, the manager, had so many ideas to make the residents lives better. All the team were lovely.” But it was hard to find anywhere for staff to have private conversations with the residents. Mark wanted to build a small room in the garden. So Tracey brought round some of the Waitrose partners to build a base and erect what has now become known as the “shack”. She also organised a quiz for World Homeless Day in association with three local homeless charities, including Michael House. She visits the house frequently. “People give me all sorts of stuff to bring.”
She was “chuffed” to be nominated for one to three nights in a hotel with Room to Reward. She and her husband spent a weekend in Brighton. “The weather was awful, but that didn’t matter. The hotel was beautiful and they upgraded us.”
Jenna Milton owns Creations hairdressing salon in West Parley. She regularly visits Michael House to offer haircuts to the residents.
“Having your hair done can be the best medicine, if you’re feeling low or about to have an interview,” she says. “I love doing it. To me, it’s only a few hours of my time, but it makes a massive difference to the residents. And it’s really nice to see people develop in self-confidence over time. Some of the ex-residents still come back for a cut.”
“I did cry a lot when I got the email. I was overwhelmed by it all. I took my partner to a really posh hotel in Devon for two nights. We had a wonderful time. I was so grateful.”
From Room to Reward website: The aim of Room to Reward is to recognise and reward the commitment, hard work and selflessness of registered charity staff and volunteers with a complimentary short break, giving them the chance to spend quality time with a loved one and enjoy a few days of pure relaxation.