Preston refuge staff vow to fight on after fire

The Foxton Centre on Berry Street
The Foxton Centre on Berry Street
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Charity workers are refusing to be driven out after a suspected firebomb attack forced the closure of a Preston refuge for the homeless.

The Foxton Centre, in Avenham, could be shut for months after it was badly damaged in a late-night blaze which police are investigating.

Tim Keightley, Director of The Foxton Centre

Tim Keightley, Director of The Foxton Centre

Centre director Rev Tim Keightley said: “We are keeping an open mind about who started it and why. But it looks like we must have upset someone.

“I can’t understand why anyone would want to do this because all the services we run are for the benefit of the community and it will be much more difficult to run them now.”

“We will try our absolute best to continue for the time being in different buildings, if we can. If anyone can help in that regard, then please get in touch.

Staff, who help some of the most disadvantaged in society, have set up an emergency soup cafe in a nearby church.

But other important services for displaced people, street workers, rough sleepers and youth groups may have to be suspended unless they can find alternative accommodation until the damage, which could run into tens of thousands of pounds, is repaired. The fire started outside the centre in Berry Street and spread through a window, causing extensive damage inside the building.

Part of the ceiling in the main hall collapsed, walls were blackened by smoke and flames and furniture and carpets were destroyed.

Rev Keightley said that had it not been for the swift action of firefighters the building would have been destoyed.

“I’ve got to praise the fire brigade for intervening so quickly,” he said. “A few more minutes and the whole place could have gone up.

“This is very delicate work that we do here and we are obviously dealing with people who are struggling.

“This is a big loss to the city because there are a lot of vulnerable people who will find life more of a struggle until we can get back into business.”

Just 24 hours after the blaze burglars attacked the centre, forcing off a padlock on the main door and getting in.

“If things couldn’t get any worse,” said Rev Keightley. “Fortunately it doesn’t look like they stole anything, but it is still further distress.

“I am determined that we will carry on as best we can. We are here and we are determined to stay here to help the people who most need us in Preston.”