A LIFELINE charity which has been a "port in the storm" for Halesowen's most vulnerable people for more than a decade is closing.

The Hope Centre, based on Andrew Road, was set up by Camilla Phillips and Wendy Riley back in 2010.

The Christian-based centre has been a a meeting place and advice centre for residents, the unemployed, community groups, people suffering a crisis of confidence and the homeless.

It has run a food bank and has provided help with CVs, art classes, counselling, education and a whole raft of other practical services, becoming a bastion of the community providing education and support for the Highfields community.

It also donated items of furniture to people struggling to kit out their homes.

Camilla Phillips, who founded the centre out of the ashes of the defunct Lighthouse Project, was awarded an MBE for services to the community in the New Year's Honours list in 2017.

Community campaigners Andrew Tromans and Savannah Southorn, who are standing for the Labour Party in Belle Vale in next month’s local elections, have started a petition calling for the building at Black 11 Andrew Road to be kept as a community centre.

They said: “For more than a decade the Hope Centre has been a port in the storm.

"Camilla and her team have been there for those in need or just in need of a friend.

"We understand that discussions about the future of this building are ongoing and proposals have been made for a housing advice service to be based on site.

"We are calling on Dudley Council to do more, and to ensure that the building which is home to the Hope Centre is kept for community use.

"In doing so they’ll help keep a vital source of hope in Halesowen."

Wendy Riley and Camilla Phillips both lost their jobs when the Lighthouse Project folded but decided to volunteer full time and set up the Hope Centre.

Halesowen News:

Pictured above: Former Belle Vale Councillor Jill Nicholls (holding certificate) with Wendy Riley from Hope Centre right and Camilla Phillips left. 

Camilla said: “My team and I are winding up operations at the Hope Centre and looking towards new and exciting projects.

"However, we are very keen the building we have called home for more than ten years be kept for the community.

"People know they come to Block 11, Andrew Road and get help.

"It would be such a shame if in future people in need arrived to find an empty building.”

Andrew said he would like to see the building, where James Morris MP has held surgeries, used by community groups such as litter picking group Keep Halesowen Beautiful.

He said: "The petition calls for the building to kept as a community centre which could continue to offer support to residents, as well as providing a home for local groups and offering room hire for private functions."

Paul Davies, director of housing and community services at Dudley Council, said: “We are sorry the Hope Centre, which has operated out of this building for many years, is closing.

"We will review how we use the building and how as a council we can support the local community, particularly as we become able to restart more face to face provision as we move out of Covid restrictions, but we expect to run housing services pop-in sessions and surgeries from it soon.”