The future of the Macari Centre Street Retreat, the hostel for homeless persons, has been secured thanks to a five-year lease.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has struck a deal with former Stoke City manager Lou Macari who opened the Macari Centre in 2016. It means Lou will be able to apply for extra funding as the search continues for a bigger building elsewhere in Hanley.
The council-owned Regent Road building has been earmarked for housing.
Lou said: “We are delighted the council has recognised the work we do. I will certainly sleep better knowing the future of the centre is secured and it’s also great news for our staff and most importantly our residents.
“The new lease means we can really push on with our help for the homeless. We started off sheltering 18 people and now we are packed to capacity with 48. Looking after homeless people can be very difficult, but it can also be very rewarding when they make progress and leave us.
“We are doing fine in terms of funds because the people of Stoke-on-Trent have been incredibly generous. Loads of organisations have raised money for us and individuals also send us donations. It’s overwhelming at times.”
“This time of year we receive more than ever, with clothes and food coming from everywhere. The people of this city made it happen and a larger building will be most welcome for the people who stay with us.”
David Knapper has been staying at the Macari Centre on and off for the past three years.
The 34-year-old, who grew up in Heron Cross, said: “The five-year lease is amazing. I’m really happy and hopefully it will help a lot more people. In my opinion, it should be a 10-year lease. I’m just so thankful for this service, I don’t know where I would be without it. This place saves lives.”
Stoke City chairman Peter Coates – who twice employed Lou as his manager in the 1990s – remains a big admirer of his social work.
He said: “This is obviously very good news for Lou and the work he is doing for the homeless.
“What he does there is fantastic and tells you everything about the man. He has a very strong social conscience and uses his position to do good in the community, and personally, I am full of admiration for what he is achieving.”
The lease extension is expected to be signed within weeks.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “The success of the Macari Centre is down to the hard work and campaigning by Lou and his team – their efforts deserve much credit.
“Extending the lease will enable Lou and his team to complete the work they need to apply to the Government for registered-provider status – this will be really important in helping to secure the future of the centre for years to come.
“We are really pleased to be able to support the centre in this way and hope its good work can continue.”