Vote For Hastings Charity

14 June 2011, 11:56 | Updated: 14 June 2011, 12:05

Sussex residents are being urged to cast their vote for the ground breaking St John Ambulance Homeless Service which provides first aid and vital health care to some of the most vulnerable people in Hastings.

The service has reached the South East semi-finals of the National Lottery Awards and is now relying on local people to see it crowned with the coveted 'Best Health Project' title.

The project is competing against nine others in its category. The first round of public voting runs until midday on 20 June - vote by visiting or call 0844 836 9703.

The three projects with the most votes in each category will go through to the final round of public voting later in the summer.

St John Ambulance set up its Hastings Homeless Service in 2003 with the help of a £152,701 Lottery grant. It received another £181,498 worth of Lottery funding in 2007.

The charity's 14-strong team of dedicated volunteers provides a unique service to homeless and vulnerable people who, for a variety of complex reasons, find themselves excluded from GP and other mainstream health services.

The service ranges from emergency first aid in life or death situations to ongoing support designed to help desperate people turn their lives around.

The team includes five nurses, a mental health nurse and a podiatrist. Together they provide four daytime health clinics a week at the Seaview Project day-centre in St Leonards and a fortnightly Saturday evening clinic at Hope Kitchen in Hastings.

The free drop-in clinics enable homeless people to receive treatment for a range of serious illnesses and conditions common among those who live at the margins of society - they include bronchitis, trench foot, skeletal injuries and mental problems linked to alcohol and drug abuse. Last year the service had more than 1,400 contacts with clients.

Along with professional health care, the charity also provides a wide range of support services designed to help people tackle their problems and turn their lives around.

A pioneering partnership between the Homeless Service and the Conquest Hospital has been successful in reducing repeated readmission to hospital because St John Ambulance ensures patients are given the support they need when they are discharged after treatment.

The project has reduced the burden on the NHS while ensuring that discharged patients don't simply return to their desperate lives on the streets with all the associated health risks.

Homeless Service Manager Markie Barratt said: 'It's easy to vote so I hope as many people as possible will support us.'

'Gaining a national award would be a great boost for the project which relies on public donations and Lottery funding to provide vital health care to people who most need it. In many cases the service is quite literally the difference between a life lost and a life saved.'