Leeds homeless charity has weathered the storms

MP Hilary Benn chats to St George's Crypt clients Daz and Bev during his visit.
MP Hilary Benn chats to St George's Crypt clients Daz and Bev during his visit.
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The vital work of a historic Leeds charity for the homeless was under the spotlight when a top MP visited its offices yesterday to see how it has coped with the recent severe weather.

Hilary Benn, who is MP for Leeds Central as well as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, visited St George’s Crypt .

“The Crypt has done an enormously important job over the years to help those most in need,” Mr Benn said.

“We have had a persistent cold spell and, to be honest, it is difficult to imagine how the homeless people would survive were it not for the supporters, volunteers and staff of the Crypt.”

The city-centre based charity has recently been diversifying its work with local businesses, and reaching out to establish new community links.

During his visit, Mr Benn also heard of the work of the Crypt’s two charity shops, including the recently opened Armley outlet.

Martin Patterson, fundraising director at St George’s Crypt, said: “We are very grateful to our constituency MP, Hilary Benn, who has been a constant supporter and champion of the Crypt throughout all his time as our MP. It was excellent to meet him again to brief him on the increase in demand for our services in recent months.”

St George’s Crypt has been going for more than 80 years.

It was founded by Rev Percy Donald Robins in the 1930s as a response to the effects of the Great Depression, and even served as an air raid shelter at one point.

Historic records show that the first £3 ever raised for the Crypt was spent on canvas to cover the coffins of the poor.

Nowadays St George’s Crypt runs several community initiatives, and provides extensive services for rough sleepers and people with alcohol issues.

It is now accommodating 27 people every night, which goes up to 36 when the Severe Weather Protocol is activated. Around 80 people per day use the drop-in centre.

The average age of clients at the Crypt is now just 24.

The building recently had a £1 million refurbishment and the Crypt’s social enterprise – St George’s Crypt Nurture Community Interest Company – was set up in 2010.

The Crypt is a charitable company limited by guarantee and was incorporated in 2011.

STILL HOPEFUL: Campaigners from Kirkstall Valley Development Trust at Abbey Milsl in Kirkstall. From left: Fiona Butler, Chris Hill, Paul Holdsworth and Adele Rae.

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