Jan Varney, who sits on Harbour’s Board of Trustees, speaks about how she was converted from a critic of Cosgarne Hall to one of the biggest advocates of the work that is done here.
Jan’s background is in nursing – she is a trained general nurse and children’s nurse, and has completed additional training in ophthalmology and district nursing, as well as volunteering in what was Bangladesh’s only spinal injury hospital where she trained nurses in wound management and infection prevention and control.
It was through this nursing that she first came into contact with Harbour Housing when she had to come and see a patient who was residing at Cosgarne Hall at the time.
Jan admits that she performed this duty with trepidation, and what she saw on her visit only confirmed her fears about the place.
“When I first came here it was awful, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone here.”
As for how she went from having this impression to sitting on the Board several years later, Jan says that it was not her perception that changed, but the place itself.
“Over the past few years Malcolm has completely turned the place around. The bad reputation is from what it was like in the past, not what it is now.
“It’s like a completely different place.”
As well as being on the Board, Jan is also a regular volunteer, and assists her friend who is a podiatrist by washing residents’ feet.
She has found that doing this has allowed her a privileged insight into the day-to-day stories of the individuals who live here: “it’s amazing what people will tell you when you’re washing their feet.
“I’ve been told by some that this is the first place that they’ve felt accepted, and that being here has saved them.”
Jan understands the suspicion that comes with a policy of drug and alcohol tolerance, but hearing these testimonies and meeting the people here have convinced her of the need for it.
“With homelessness comes mental health problems, drugs… what you do here is real.”
Jan’s opinion was changed by coming and seeing the work done by Harbour for herself, and she would recommend that others do the same.
“I would say to anyone who still has a negative image of Cosgarne to come and have a look, see how it’s changed.”
If you’re interested in volunteering at Harbour Housing, or just coming to have a look round, get in contact:
Phone – 01726 74186
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org