THE woman behind a homeless support group in Chester has stressed that plenty of help does exist for vulnerable rough-sleepers, despite claims to the contrary.

Helen Anthony, who runs Soul Kitchen in Boughton, said she was concerned about repeated "discussions" in the press over the past two weeks that there is "little or no support for those who are homeless in Chester and that nobody is listening to them".

It comes after homeless protesters took over a city centre office block, Hamilton House, in protest at the perceived lack of support available to them, primarily from the council and its contractor forfutures.

Mrs Anthony flagged up a leaflet produced by the multi-agency Outside In group - which includes Cheshire West and Chester Council, forfutures, the police, NHS, and a host of charities, faith groups and voluntary organisations.

It outlines support available on every day of the week, from the daily doctor's clinic for homeless people at St Werburgh's Medical Practice to the day services provided at the Harold Tomlins Centre by Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH).

It states there is also support available from organisations like SHARE and Soul Kitchen, and mental health and addiction services through the likes of Chester Plus and Aqua House.

Mrs Anthony told the Standard: "As well as the statutory services, many of the voluntary, community and faith groups are constantly offering help and support. Share for example offer food, drinks, clothes, toiletries and support five days a week and also run an Art club and a Pudding club.

"Soul Kitchen provide a food and support service on a Saturday as well as football sessions and a walking group. They are also setting up cookery classes inside two of the hostels.

"And whilst local connection is still an issue for some, CATH provide accommodation without this criteria as well as practical support. As well as these ‘regular’ activities many organisations such as SK, Share, Campbell Hall, City Mission, CATH and Christchurch also provide ongoing daily support where required.

"Food provision is not only a hot nutritious meal, but an opportunity to build up relationships and trust with people who are homeless and who need support."

She added: "Outside of the regular provisions detailed on the leaflet, voluntary, community and faith sector organisations are constantly working to support people whether that be through advocacy support, support with mental wellbeing, a listening ear and a natter, actively supporting people to get into rehabilitation centres, or taking items of furniture to those who have moved into their own properties.

"These groups source volunteering opportunities to help people gain self confidence and self worth and ease their way back into employment. They work with local employers to provide job opportunities for people and then give them the vital support required once they are in that job (‘supported employment’).

"If people would like to help these organisations continue to help those who are homeless, they are always looking for additional volunteer time, especially as winter is coming."