The GEAR Projects Story.

Background: GEAR was formed as a company and charity in June 1995 with its own mission statement. It was a church led initiative, stemming from a conference chaired by the Bishop of Tewkesbury in the early part of the last decade. The conference led to the appointment of a Church Army Officer who was tasked with researching the need for a Night Shelter in Gloucester following a number of deaths of homeless individuals, seven on the streets of Gloucester. This led to a steering group, which became the first management committee of the Gloucestershire Emergency Accommodation resource. This management committee existed under authority given to the trustees by the Memorandum and Articles of Association, dated June 1995. It also ensured that the organisation acted within its charitable objectives in ensuring that the mission statement, which is ‘to relieve sickness, poverty and distress amongst the street homeless population of Gloucestershire’, was adhered to. Its function was carried out by the provision of a night shelter and day centre facilities.The Bishop of Gloucester officially opened the project on May 22nd 1996; read more.

About GEAR: A 'one-stop shop' and vital 'first point of contact', it offered a multi-agency approach to homelessness and other associate issues. Winner of the Heart of Gloucestershire Community Project award 2013. It also 'signposted' people to mainstream services. The night shelter was funded by the County Council through the Supporting People budget.

The Day Centre was an extremely valuable resource to the police and base for other agency's such as the 2gether NHS Trust.

In February 2013, the Gloucestershire Emergency Accomodation Resource Project (GEAR) had to close the only 'open door' night shelter in Gloucestershire following loss of funding from the County Council. The County Councils Supporting People 5 year Homelessness Strategy and budget cuts resulted in a retendering of service provision. The Churches & Faith Group were not consulted and consequently objected and over a 1,000 petition raised to save our night shelter. This was handed into the County Council followed by a presentation, read more, to the Councils Scrutiny Committee in March 2013 with questions asked to Kath Rees, Lead Commisioner Supporting People.

The night shelter was in Llanthony Road and catered for single homeless men and women over the age of 16 years. 

We were encouraged to hear that the revolving door syndrome, where people leave and return, existed not because of any Night Shelter failings but a major lack of support such as failings in good post shelter community provision or any high-level initiative or strategy. At a meeting with Mark Simms, now CEO of P3, ...'It was recognised that the GEAR Projects night shelter had been wrongly blamed for failing to resolve the revolving door syndrome/ cycle of homelessness, when they were only contracted to provide an emergency night shelter from 8pm to 8am; it was agreed that there had been a major lack of support, and a strategic review of the approach to ending homelessness lifestyle cycles was welcome and timely'.....see full minutes of this meeting in 'Members Area'.

To help with community engagement the Faith & Voluntary Community Sector (VCS) Homeless Forum was set up, together with Kath Rees at GCC Supporting People, to share information and experiences, to help and support services, increase awareness, encourage partnership working, raise and discuss service failures, etc. The Forum is supported by the County Homeless Coordinator (CHC), on behalf of the County Districts and County Council. We thank Kath Rees and the Districts for their involvement, guidance and assisstance.

GEAR were able to retain the Vaughan Centre, 159 Southgate Street, which was a One Stop Shop, Day Centre, for homeless and vulnerable housed people; read more. However, there was still a risk of closure due to loss of funding; read more

Strategic Alliance with ELIM: GEAR then entered into a Strategic Alliance with Elim; read more. ELIM took over management and then finances, but had to reduce the service over time. Read GEAR update 2014 and Planner. ELIM/GEAR lost the contract to provide an Assertive Outreach Service for the County to St Mungo's Broadway in April 2015. 

Due to loss of contracts and funding GEAR closed its door for the last time on January 3rd 2015.

The GEAR Day Centre provided a vital first point of contact, immediate relief, place of safety, personal hygiene, building relationships, hand-holding, social support, housing claims, help with form filling for benefits and DWP work programme, advocacy, debts, IT, washing facility's, food/good nutrition, gaining trust prior to managing health issues, etc., all within the Council adopted No Second Night Out (NSNO) government standard and guidance.

It has been said that letting the Day Centre close was a huge error on behalf of the authorities. The Vaughan Centre was recognised by voluntary and statutory groups alike as a unique and essential service to Gloucester and it's surrounding areas, from which other services could springboard from.