Column, David Kessen: Doncaster homeless scheme an inspiration

Carl Robinson, Volunteer, Daniel Munn, Volunteer/service user, Andrea Milner, Chair of M25, Phil Bramley, Doncaster Free Press editor, Sam Archer, Property Development Manager and Neil Green, Project Director, pictured during the official opening of Made By U. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 10-08-15 M25 MC 16
Carl Robinson, Volunteer, Daniel Munn, Volunteer/service user, Andrea Milner, Chair of M25, Phil Bramley, Doncaster Free Press editor, Sam Archer, Property Development Manager and Neil Green, Project Director, pictured during the official opening of Made By U. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP 10-08-15 M25 MC 16

I spent around 10 years working from a landmark building in Doncaster town centre on Sunny Bar.

The Doncaster Star moved in to share the building with the Doncaster Free Press after leaving its previous base on Duke Street.

It was an exciting time. It was a new office, and we had air conditioning for the first time, which was great as far as we were concerned in the summer.

But times change. The building, more than 100 years old, which was once packed, was no longer the ideal place to be our base, and so, once again, The Doncaster Star was on the move.

Now we are based in smart new offices on the corner of Printing Office Street and Cleveland Street, which are just what we need.

For quite some time, our old building was empty.

But now it is filling up, after being taken over by the organisation M25, which helps the homeless in Doncaster.

This week, those involved with the project invited us around to have a look at what they had done with the building.

And the result of their work is mighty impressive.

Outside, the building does not look that different to that in which we worked.

Inside, it is unrecognisable.

I was keen to see the areas where my old desks would have been, having sat in various parts of the building over the decade that we were there.

I struggled to find it, given the scale of the changes.

Old offices have been replaced by modern living accommodation, complete with bathrooms.

The former basement now has facilities including a gym.

And there is a space used by the social enterprise Made by U, offering recycled and re-used carpets at reduced prices.

There is also a drop-in centre for people who are on the streets and need help and advice.

It is one of a number of facilities that M25 now operates. It has come a long way from the old hostel it once ran near Doncaster Coroner’s Court on Union Street.

I think these people are doing a great job looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Like every other organisation though, they need funds, and hopefully their partnership with Made by U will help it financially.

It is too easy to turn a blind eye when we see homeless people on the streets of Doncaster. We have all seen them.

That is why it is vital that we offer any support we can to organisations like M25, who offer a glimmer of hope to those who have little.

I can’t think of a better use for our old building, and I wish M25 every success in their new project in this great, old, Doncaster town centre landmark.