ON THE GROUND: Crisis Skylight

Scheme: A variety of workshops aimed at homeless people

Funding: Set up and funded by homelessness charity Crisis

Objectives: To provide a safe, fun environment in which homeless people can learn new skills to boost their confidence

"Skylight has put me back in touch with who I really am," says Delroy, a member of Skylight. "When you're on the streets or in a hostel, you have to become a different person - harder and less caring. Skylight has reminded me who I used to be."

Located in a converted warehouse near Liverpool Street in London, Crisis Skylight runs a variety of workshops aimed at homeless people. Homeless people often suffer from low self-esteem or experience isolation and boredom, and Skylight aims to provide a safe, learning atmosphere where they can learn new skills.

The building itself is light and spacious, being in such an attractive environment is in itself a boost for members. Crisis' head office is on the same premises, so staff can interact with people coming to workshops.

Users of the facilities become members free of charge, so the project managers can monitor use and, if possible, keep people up-to-date on new activities they may be interested in. The building has a large art room where members can come and go as they please and a kitchen area for making tea and coffee.

There are a number of studios that are used for workshops, varying from those with therapeutic, confidence-building elements, such as yoga and samba sounds, to more practical skills including PC maintenance and cycle repairing. There are plans to set up a cafe where homeless people will be able to train in catering skills. The project is still in its infancy, having opened in September 2002, and is continuously adding new workshops.

"The classes available at Skylight can change according to homeless people's needs," says Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of Crisis. "Different people are interested in different areas. It's a case of finding that one thing that really switches the lights on for someone, that gives them a sense of purpose and makes them start thinking about the future."

The project is very different from day centres around the country for homeless people. It does not provide housing advice and other support services. But it has a busy, creative atmosphere and avoids the stigma that is attached to many of the traditional services provided for homeless people.

Although the project is aimed at the homeless, including those staying in hostels or recently resettled in their own accommodation, Skylight encourages members of the public to attend so that homeless people can mix with a wider group.

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