A SHELTERED housing group which helps young homeless people hopes to put its bad reputation behind it after being named the best of its kind in the country.
Bramble Court in Bramble Road, Witham, is a hostel for 16 to 25-year-olds, many of who have suffered from family fall outs and relationship break-ups.
The hostel has just been handed a prestigious national award for having the best care and support team in the country when it changed from following strict government regulations to a personalised scheme of care for its residents.
Joe Bayford, who wants to be a plumber but admits his favourite past time is sleeping, moved into the hostel in February this year.
"I fell out with pretty much my whole family," he said.
The 17-year-old is currently unemployed but is being encouraged to apply for apprenticeship schemes by support worker Jenny McDonald, described as "the nan" by residents.
"Sometimes they need some encouragement to get out of bed and do something," said Jenny.
Another support worker, Helen Nye, 44, has worked at Bramble Court for six years after changing jobs from working in retail.
"If you can get a young person to even make a phone call to help them get out of debt or make positive steps, it makes your day," she said
Jenny, Helen and their colleagues, who stay overnight at the hostel, believe that being allowed to steer away from the strict rules of national regulations has enabled them to be better at their jobs.
"At the end of the day we are housing support workers. If somebody does have issues with drugs or gaming addiction, we are not qualified to help them but we can direct them to the help they need," said Helen. "If someone has a job interview and is nervous we can now drive them there, which is something we couldn't do before because of health and safety."
Bramble Court, now owned by housing provider Family Mosiac, can accommodate up to 25 residents, all of who now have a personalised support plan and weekly meetings with a member of staff who help them with job applications and offer direction when needed.
Diana-Jane Chapman, 20, moved in to Bramble Court in January after falling out with her father, with whom she lived in Witham.
"My dad and I are too similar but now I've got my own space things seem to have improved and I'm more independent in myself now.
"The team offers advice and they listen – I went through a hard break-up as well, which I got through with their help."
Currently working as a full-time carer, Diana plans to move out of Bramble Court to become a holiday rep in Cyprus for five months before joining the Army.
"It's a good place to live – although the worst thing is paying rent," she said.
However, it has not always been good for the hostel.
Bramble Court was plagued with anti-social behaviour in the past, something that team manager, Claire Baker, 36, now hopes to put behind them after winning the Housing Heroes Award at The Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London.
"Bramble Court has always had a bad name," she said.
"People think it's a bit rough, but it's changed from the place it was years ago.
"But we couldn't have done it without the wonderful team and I'm proud of all of them.
"It was a lot of hard work and we got the shock of our lives when we won. It's all been worth it."