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Chairman's Comment

HAVEN West Berkshire is a group of people coming together to achieve a common purpose that is bigger and bolder than any individual’s ambition. This can only be achieved with the co-operation, support and dedication of existing groups who operate and provide services in this area. We believe that by working together, we can make a real and sustainable difference to West Berkshire and the communities we live in.

The Challenge

The challenge facing Newbury and West Berkshire in terms of homelessness and supporting vulnerable people is immense and should not be under-estimated. A tremendous amount of work has been undertaken by a wide number of organisations statutory and voluntary, over a number of decades. However, the need is increasing; groups and services need to be organised in a manner that fosters greater understanding from their potential users, and easier access for people who often have an immediate and urgent need. There is an range of organisations already meeting these vital needs within our communities, but far too often these are not understood by the very people needing them. We believe that HAVEN can provide a hub from which services can be accessed and better communicated, so that potential users are aware of what is available to support them. We are committed to working collaboratively with existing services providers. Our role will be to provide clarity about what is available and how to access it. Establishing a comprehensive and integrated service for all in West Berkshire. We have established a formidable group of people who, in addition to their specific skills and experience, are keen and motivated to deliver the HAVEN vision, and make a real difference to our service users and the communities we live and work in.     

The History of Haven

In 2014 Meryl Praill started volunteering for Newbury Foodbank at the Salvation Army Hall in Northcroft. Having experienced financial hardship after the 2008 financial crisis, Meryl passionately wanted to help others who had become vulnerable through economic circumstances. While volunteering at the Foodbank it becoming apparent to Meryl, that so much more could be done for the homeless and vulnerable in West Berkshire. Meryl wanted to do more and approached the Salvation Army to ask if they would allow her to run a Soup Kitchen. The first Newbury Soup Kitchen session was held in Jan 2017 and was an immediate success. Each week the number of service users and their needs grew as did the number of volunteers.


Before long and with the help of some key volunteers, Meryl was working 7 days a week organising the Soup Kitchen, sourcing suppliers, and recruiting the volunteers. After visiting the Soup Kitchen in February 2017 Peter Dunn met with Meryl and they discussed how they could better serve the homeless and vulnerable of West Berkshire by setting up a day centre, and the idea of HAVEN was born. Meryl and Peter have been working to realise this vision for the last 15 months and have put together a team of trustees and lead volunteers. This team are currently developing the HAVEN vision and how to harness the strengths of local service providers.


  • HAVEN will be a community day centre for the homeless and vulnerable in West Berkshire, and a hub for support services in a safe environment.
  • HAVEN aims to partner with local charities and service providers including: Loose Ends, Eight Bells, SEAP, West Berkshire Homeless, Swanswell, Newbury Soup Kitchen, etc.
  • HAVEN will provide a location; from which local service providers can deliver services and support to service users in a co-ordinated manner.
  • HAVEN will be managed by a core team of full-time/part-time employed staff, and a wider team of multi-skilled volunteers.
  • HAVEN will not duplicate existing service provision from partnered service providers unless necessary services are missing.

Safeguarding & Guiding Principles

All HAVEN’s staff and volunteers, and those of partnered service providers, will be required to adhere to a rigorous set of safeguarding policies and guiding principles. Members of the board of trustees of HAVEN with the relevant professional skills will provide safeguarding policies and guiding principles.

Timeline & Business Plan

The delivery date for the HAVEN business plan is dependent on the availability of a suitable building. This section will be developed more formally as we gain clarity around our funding and access to a suitable building.


Mark started his career in the pharmaceutical industry with Crookes healthcare and Boots Pharmaceuticals. Specialising in Human Resources and Customer Operations, Mark left the Centrica Group and joined the Board of the Simplyhealth Group where he spent 13 years focussing on a broad range of health products and services.

In addition to his commercial experience Mark was a Trustee with the Society of St James charity where he also held the position of Vice Chairman. Mark has recently stood down from his role as Vice President with the Institute of Customer Service which he represented since 2010.

He is currently a Non-Executive Director with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which provides both community and mental health services. In his spare time Mark acts as a member of the Professional Council of the Global Executive Network.

Peter’s career in financial services commenced in the 1970s, initially working with AXA and Scottish Amicable before setting up the IFA division of a medical accountancy practice in 1988. For the last 12 years, he’s jointly owned Heritage Financial Advisers, a Newbury based Chartered Financial Planning practice with a strong community focus and sponsors of two local charities and active supporters of the Watermill Theatre.

As a Kinder Institute Life Planner, Peter is passionate that proper financial advice should be accessible to everyone at all stages of their lives, regardless of personal circumstances. Heritage are currently developing free workshops for local schools to help pupils understand more about their relationship with money and learn some essential life skills to get ahead and be better prepared.

A volunteer at Newbury Soup Kitchen from it’s earliest days, Lee has held a range of Senior Management roles in the private sector, Lee is currently heads a department of 100 staff at Vodafone UK. A director of a Community Interest Company (Newbury Community Football Group) who’s objective is to ensure local sporting facilities are protected and developed. Lee is also the Chairman and Club Welfare Officer of AFC Newbury Boys and Girls, a volunteer run organisation that provide football for over 350 local children each week.

Meryl started her career at Norland Nursery training College obtaining the NNEB, NAMCW and Norland Diploma. Meryl worked as a residential nanny in London before setting up an introductory employment agency in Fulham, London in 1990. The agency specialised in the introduction of nannies, maternity nurses and mothers helps to the Royal family, celebrities and professionals all over London.

After moving back to Newbury to bring up her three children, she volunteered for their primary school PTA throughout their education getting involved in fundraising and organising school events. Meryl organised a big event involving the London Welsh Male Voice Choir to Newbury to raise money for the school. For three years Meryl also volunteered for a charity sending aid to Ukrainian orphanages, organising legal paperwork, stock and border import issues.

Meryl has volunteered for the Foodbank locally for the last 4.5 Years. It was during this time Meryl became aware of the plight of rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerable people in the town and surrounding areas. Meryl approached the Salvation Army to see if she could set up a Soup Kitchen in their premises. The Soup Kitchen has since gone from strength to strength now feeding up to 47 people a week. There are over 50 volunteers on the books and a growing number of support services working with the Soup Kitchen.

Anna started work in the homelessness field in 1994 in Bristol; first in a direct access hostel for men and women, moving into more specialised supported housing projects for homeless young people. Moving on into community care, within both the public and third sector, offered a further insight into the needs of vulnerable groups. A further 7 years as Chief Executive of Brook Young Peoples Clinic (a charity providing sexual health services to young people), gave valuable experience of charity management as well as tendering for funds.

After relocating to a more rural environment, and qualifying as a Youth Worker, Anna has since worked in Primary and Secondary schools, and now works as a Personal Tutor at an FE College in Swindon.

With ‘time out’ in between working, Anna set up and ran an independent coffee shop to fulfil a long held dream. A useful and interesting experience, Anna returned to what she enjoys best; working with people to enable and empower a positive future.

A key member of the Newbury Soup Kitchen team, Mai-Britt graduated with a Bachelor Degree from University College Lillebaelt, Denmark in Social Education in 2014 and worked as a Support Worker for the social psychiatric housing Teglgaardshuset from 2014 to 2017. Working with dual diagnostic, mental health and substance abuse. Mai-Britt moved to the UK in 2017 where she soon discovered the Newbury Soup Kitchen and quickly became a key member of the leadership team and now works as a Health Care Assistant at Thornford Park.

Nick started his career in electronics logistics before moving to logistics in the automotive industry. After a 3 year spell managing the offices of a steel fabrications company Nick returned to the automotive industry where he spent several years in service management. He then retrained as a system analyst in the late 1980s. By the early 1990s Nick took up his current career in business consultancy specialising in marketing and strategic planning.

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