Seaview has existed for 33 years, originally as an outreach centre to help former in-patien
ts of Hellingly Mental Hospital cope with the outside world under the ‘care in the community’ programme of the 1980s.

These days it operates a day centre five days a week at a former drill hall in Hatherley Road above Warrior Square station: what Chief Officer Annie Whelan calls an ‘open access wellbeing space’, in which people with ‘complex needs’ can enter into a ‘relationship of trust’.

It houses a central canteen with pool table and other social accessories; showers; a gym; a clothing store; an art room; a computer room. Every Thursday it is used as a rough sleepers’ ‘hub’, opening for breakfast at 8.30 am, then providing a forum for them to receive support with mental health issues from qualified professionals, medical assessments and treatment from a St Johns Ambulance primary care team. They also get help with benefits claims or housing applications as appropriate from welfare specialists.

Like all local providers who rely upon public funds, whether they are charities or offshoots of local government, Seaview has to bid for slices, showing how it will use the money to target those most in need. It is also compelled to ‘match fund’ for a proportion of most central government grants. Ms Whelan says that of her organisation’s annual turnover of between £450,000 and £500,000, over £100,000 has to be raised by charitable fund-raising: hence the free cinema screenings on the pier this weekend, the annual Big Sleep sleep-over at the Stade on 28th September, and further initiatives mounted through the rest of
the year.

How would Seaview use a bigger funding allocation? According to Ms Whelan what
is most critical is ongoing support for people with complex needs, not just to access housing but to be helped to live sustainably. In short, to have their underlying mental health problems, whether they are the consequence of
life trauma, drug misuse or have other origins, properly addressed. Although most national critics have blamed the problems of rough sleeping and wider homelessness on lack of social or affordable housing, Ms Whelan’s experience is that Hastings Borough Council will comply with their statutory duty to house the most vulnerable applicants. But the majority of
the people serviced by Seaview have deeper personal and social needs.

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