“We mustn't accept it, we have to do better” - soul star Heather Small speaks out about homelessness as she opens new shelter in South Shields
The former M People star said it “meant a lot to her” to open a new homeless shelter in South Shields to help tackle the issue in the borough.
Heather is a director and ambassador for the charity Homeless Worldwide which is behind the 14 bedroom development on Beach Road.
The accommodation which currently has 11 residents, is the first to be opened by the foundation in the UK.
Homeless Worldwide was founded eight months ago by Jenny Roberts, whose brother Darren Ledger died homeless on the streets in 2017.
Heather became involved when Jenny decided to record a fundraising single. The star has said she found Jenny’s “commitment” and “determination” inspiring following the tragedy.
“Homelessness is too prevalent,” said Heather. “It is becoming an everyday occurrence that is condoned and accepted. We mustn’t accept it, we have to do better.
“Society says you are a non-person when you’re homeless and that’s not right. Everybody has their own story and their own journey, we are all human beings. The foundation is about making people aware of what it’s truly like to be homeless.”
She continued: “It means a lot to me to be here, because it means a lot to the new residents.
“It means a lot to see them feel safe and part of a community in the property.”
Jenny, originally from South Shields, said sentimental reasons had led to her returning to the town to open the first property on Wednesday, August 21 , which is dedicated to Darren.
“After losing him I wanted to do something positive so he didn’t die in vain,” she said.
“My brother played on the streets here, and there is also a big homeless problem in South Shields, so we decided to start here and work our way down the country to help as many people as we can.”
She added: “It’s worth it when you see the residents settling into their new place.”
Beach Road resident David, who has struggled with addiction and mental health issues, added: “I feel more safe and secure here. It just feels like home.”
Homeless Worldwide, is working with Newcastle-based Supporting Lives and South Tyneside Borough Council to provide the new accommodation.