THE DOORS have opened on Stratford Samaritans Community Hub.
The Samaritans won the biggest share of Stratford Town Trust’s £1million CommYOUnity Challenge back in 2014 – being awarded £420,000 to fund the renovation of Tyler House and initial running costs of the Tyler Street hub.
Tyler House – owned by the William Tyler Charity and managed by the Municipal Charities of Stratford – been completely transformed into an office and event space for hired on a one-off or more permanent basis.
Downstairs there is a large main space ready to welcome groups, a boardroom and small private offices, together with kitchen, toilets and disabled facilities, including a lift. Upstairs there are further offices, as well as ‘hot desks’ – available at £10 per day with fast Wi-Fi.
Stratford Samaritans has moved from their existing Victorian terrace in Shakespeare Street where the charity was based for 21 years.
Stratford Samaritans has around 90 volunteers working four day-time or night-time shifts a month. They also carry out outreach work, in Stratford’s schools and at Warwick Hospital.
Hub manager Rachel Tew – whose position is the only paid role, funded by Stratford Town Trust for two years to manage the building – said: “We know demand for Samaritans is growing, the demand for mental health support is growing, loneliness is growing.
“To have this amazing base is hugely important in terms of recruitment and retention – to have an environment which is warm and calm makes all the difference when you are working through the night and taking difficult calls.”
Virginia von Malachowski, who has been a Stratford Samaritans volunteer for 12 years and was one of the team who submitted the winning CommYOUnity Challenge bid, can vouch for that.
She said: “It is a wonderful environment which will allow us to grow our volunteer base. We are over the moon with every aspect. The project was aspirational but already it has become reality – it is actually more than we could ever have hoped for. We are doing exactly what we set out to do – bringing people together, acting together, making cross referrals.
“We want to send a big thank you to our architects, Corstophine + Wright of Warwick, who provided their services to us for nothing, saving us so much money.”
The anonymity Tyler House offers is also important – groups already using the hub range from ‘Sunny Side Up’, bringing people together for ukulele or computer clubs, to Al-Anon, supporting the families of alcoholics.
Heart of England Mencap has held staff training at Tyler House, with other charities taking advantage of the private offices to run drop-in support services including Guideposts, which supports carers and Doorway, which works with homeless young people.
Rachel added: “Coming in to Tyler House, a neutral space, you could be visiting for all manner of reasons – and that’s very important when reaching out to vulnerable people seeking anonymity.
“We’re not here to make a profit, we are here to ensure Tyler House remains financially sustainable – and that’s where we can offer that affordability so lacking elsewhere. Take Al-Anon as one example. Tyler House has given them an affordable base in Stratford for the first time in four years.
“Being here is hugely inspirational – to see the work of so many organisations in Stratford who do such incredible work and really make such a huge difference to lives.”
Claire Bowry, Grants Manager for Stratford Town Trust, said Tyler House was going to play a vital role in Stratford.
“The Hub will have a huge impact across the town, helping not only Samaritans to expand their services, but also providing an affordable space for so many others. There will be very many people in the community who will benefit as a result.”
Visit www.tylerhousehub.org.uk for further detail on using Tyler House, or call Rachel on 07711 981699. The first eight hours are free to not-for-profit groups.