Pioneering homes for homeless are 'beam of light in middle of Hell' for Newcastle rough sleepers

  • Video report by Jonny Blair.

A former rough sleeper has described how a pioneering project to provide homeless people with their own apartments has helped save his life.

Vincent Von Ellesmere is a resident at Newcastle's Bentinck Terrace, a complex which aims to reduce homelessness by offering a home, and personal space, at an earlier stage than usual.

"When I first turned up here just to view the place, I was really emotional," said Mr Von Ellesmere, who spent years being homeless.

"It's like a shiver up your spine, but a good feeling that I got. I just felt so emotional I wanted to cry, happiness, because all my years of homelessness, struggling, I've never found anywhere like this.

"That beam of light in the middle of Hell, you know, and I seen it and I followed it and I got there."

The apartments are designed to be quiet spaces. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The 36 apartments, run by Changing Lives, are intended to give residents room to reflect on their past and focus on the future, all with support from staff.

The development was the first in the UK to be transformed from a traditional hostel into self-contained flats.

Mr Von Ellesmere was also the driving force behind creating an on-site Zen Garden.

The garden and the help from the charity even inspired him to write a poem.

Representatives from Changing Lives said they believed the layout and design was more beneficial to helping people through the system and promoting aspiration.

Alan Hodgson, project leader, said: "I think it's a brave decision to get away from hostel life and give everybody their own front door.

"Everybody has their own space where they can sit, work out what their trauma is, work out who they are and what support they need in a quiet space.

"Basically it comes down to your own front door, a positive environment, working with people and bringing their goals and aspirations to life."

Bentinck Terrace Zen Garden provides a space for residents, staff and even the wider community to gather their thoughts. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Bentinck Terrace replaced Elliott House, in the city's west end, with a view to try and give residents the keys to their own front door at the earliest possible opportunity.

It is a year since it first opened and staff said its success could be measured in how well the residents had responded.

The charity's flagship accommodation also celebrated the first anniversary with the official opening of the Zen Garden.

Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...