A NEW accommodation centre for homeless armed services veterans has been officially opened.

Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, was on hand to open the accommodation at Single Homeless: Action Initiative in Durham (SHAID), which provides accommodation for former services personnel at St Peter’s Court, Sacriston.

Durham Mayor, Coun Katie Corrigan, helped the MP unveil a plaque for the charity’s Hollyacre Centre.

SHAID manager Tony Hammond said: “We take former Army, Navy and RAF personnel from all over the country, and all over the world, who are in urgent need of accommodation and I’m delighted that we’re now officially open.

“We have 15 self-contained flats for individuals and one family unit and we already have two veterans living at St Peter’s Court.”

Referrals to SHAID come from local councils, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and other armed forces charities supporting veterans. Horrible Histories author Terry Deary is a patron of SHAID.

Mr Hammond said: “Kevan has been a huge supporter of SHAID for the past eight years and we’ve also had support and funding from Santander and Grundfos.”

Sunderland pump manufacturer Grundfos has donated and assembled furniture for SHAID while several teams of Grundfos employees have visited St Peter’s Court to improve the centre’s gardens and surrounding area.

Over the summer a stall at the company’s Grundfest family day raised more than £600 for SHAID.

Catherine Attwell, HR director of Grundfos, said: “We are delighted to see the facility opening. The efforts from Grundfos employees and other organisations have helped to get the facility up and running. It’s great to see team work in the community can produce such fantastic result which will help so many.

“We’ve looked to help in several different ways, including donating the furniture and helping to improve the gardens, which everyone involved really enjoyed.

“we wanted the former service people who use the centre to feel at home there and improving the surrounding gardens and environment will help them to get that feelgood factor about the place.

“we were honoured to have been asked along to the official opening and will continue to look at ways we can help tony and his team,” she added.

shaid was formally launched in october 1993 by the then minister of state for environment and transport, hillary armstrong.

it remained an inter-agency focus group until 1997 when it received a national lottery grant enabling the charity to employ three people to work directly with young people with housing needs from its then base in the louisa centre, stanley.

SHAID has 20 staff members in Front St, Stanley, Wear Road Community House and St Peter’s Court in Sacriston.