© 2016 York Arc Light | Registered Charity No: 1113198  | (01904) 630 500  | | Google Map


Arc Light is a charity that provides accommodation and support to homeless men and women in York. We have been delivering services since 1999 and operate from a signature facility, in private grounds close to the city centre, which has 35 bedrooms, meeting and counselling spaces as well as education, health, fitness and community facilities. This welcoming and inspirational space offers our clients not only a place to stay but also the chance to make positive changes in their lives.

Following the retirement of our Chief Executive, Jeremy Jones, Arc Light and the North East-based national charity Changing Lives have merged their York operations.

Changing Lives is headquartered in Gateshead and delivers a wide range of services for people experiencing homelessness, addiction, offending and domestic and sexual abuse. An established provider of services in York, they run the Oaktrees recovery project, helping people from the city and surrounding areas overcome addiction long-term.

Jeremy said: “I am very proud of all that we have achieved in York over the last 17 years and the recognition of Arc Light as a key provider of homeless services in the city. In Changing Lives, we have secured a fantastic partner to support our future growth and development.”

For more information about Changing Lives and the services they provide nationally, visit their website:

Arc Light's strategic aims can be found here

What Arc Light does

Arc Light’s core client group are ex-rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough - the majority of whom have complex issues primarily connected with drug and alcohol misuse and mental ill-health.

Our work is aimed at reconnecting our clients with the opportunities that life offers and encouraging them to embrace and maximise them.

We do this through the provision not only of keyworking support but also a broad range of purposeful activity options, thus preparing them to move on through York’s co-ordinated multi-agency re-settlement network and onto an independent life.

What is it like being homeless?

It is difficult to imagine what it is like to be homeless. We asked a couple of our residents how being homeless has affected them.

  • It's the worst feeling in the world until you have the courage to put your hand out and say you want some help.I can now.

    Steve Spence
  • I have been homeless for about 10 years, in this time I have lived both in Arc Light and on the streets. When on the streets finding somewhere to sleep, stay dry and store your belongings is extremely difficult. We used to have to hide away in bins etc. but now I feel we are generally more accepted than before.

    Charlie Robinson


Our blogs are about life at Arc Light. They are written by residents and the people who work here.


4 of our favourites produced in-house by Paul Banks and Digifish.

Click on the YouTube icon to see them all.

Life On The Streets

Support Us

Arc Light is a charity so we welcome donations and contributions from businesses and members of the public.

  • You can help us by making a donation online at
  • If you don’t want to give online you can also talk to us here
  • Businesses who have supported us are listed here
  • Volunteering Opportunities. Arc Light is currently going through a period of transition following its merger with Changing Lives. Part of this process is a review of volunteering opportunities. We shall be updating the website with more information shortly, in the meantime thank you for your interest.

Talk to us

We welcome any questions you may have about Arc Light or homelessness. Please contact us through the form below.

Location Map

Arc Light, Union Terrace, York YO31 7ES.

01904 630 500

The map below shows where we are.

Blogs » A Poem about Arc Light

Arc Light


It’s good, this place called Arc Light -

Just like a home from home.

There’s good times and there’s bad times,

But you don’t have to face them on your own.

There’s people here to help you

When the going does get tough;

They’re here to share your burden

When you think you’ve had enough.

They quench you when you’re thirsty,

And there’s a meal if you’re hungry too;

There’s a place to rest your weary head

In a clean bed that’s just for you. 

You’re here until you’re ready,

Or unless you do something wrong.

All in all,

Arc Light is a good place;

It helps to make you strong,

So you can go out and face the world.

But here is one thing more,

Before it’s time for you to move on:

Don’t forget to say

‘Thanks and so long’.


Alex Mackay

Blogs » Exploding the Myth

Well. Here l am. Standing at the gates of Arc Light. Like a scared child on his first day at school. Why scared? Look at me. Six foot tall 120 kilos with arms like a gorilla and the ability to raise a temperament to match. My face wears the battle scars of age like much fought for medals and my voice (when used in a particular manner) can quietly bring apprehension to the eyes of most men using intelligent but instantly assertive words, always few, always forceful.

The only fear of my own my whole life has been to be hurt or to die unhappy. I have always dealt with the first fear in the same way and defended myself vigorously. My greatest fear now is the latter and as I stand looking at the intercom button for reception I am scared that it will happen soon.

I lost my wife 10 years ago to a brain haemorrhage, lost my son 6 years ago to heroin, lost my business 2 years to a broken my leg and lost my home today through debt. I feel now there are not many things to lose, the list is coming to an end, my mind, my pride, my dignity and of course my life are all I feel left and my greatest fear could soon be realised. For I am desperately unhappy and standing at the gates of a hostel for the homeless.

Psychosomatic manifestation into physical form has brought my health into question. My head is filled with the horror stories bestowed on me by well meaning and concerned friends. Fights, muggings, drug and alcohol induced crazed people ready to attack, being constantly on guard from all manner of assault and suggestion.

So with the image I and others have painted the intercom button is pressed and a voice welcomes me to my new home, I feel awful. My room though basic is more than sufficient and has a pleasant view. Unfortunately at this stage it doesn’t do anything to allay any fears. I’m shown the bullet proof lock on my door and assured of the staffs round the clock support and left to “settle in”.

The only emotions that came to the surface over the next few days were those that had caused me pain during my life. I tried to suppress them and rationalise my situation but to no avail, when the staff, who by the way I grew to have an enormous liking and respect for, asked as to my well being I regularly and unashamedly broke down.

Unable to see the greater picture and surrounded by preconceived people I found it hard to comfort myself, the idea of sharing my space with people I had nothing in common with was alien to me. I had a choice of course. I could have slept on the streets and there I am no better than anyone else. So why did I think I had nothing in common with others in here?

Self diagnosis is a wonderful thing and somewhere towards the end of my first week I managed to see clearly. I was a self centred, judgemental hypocrite. My needs were no greater, were no most urgent and I was no more deserving or better than the next residents and not in danger. I viewed others in a different light and started to assimilate and empathise with them, they too had a story to tell.

I have grown not only to respect those around me but have been filled with a desire to help, to listen, to play a part in their future as the Arc Light has played a part in mine. I have found friends and built relationships with those I thought would be my attackers, felt respected by those I previously saw as a threat and hopefully made a difference, however small to their lives.

After one day less than seven weeks it has been deemed appropriate that I should move on to shared housing, the next stage in my re-settlement and an enormous leap forward. I will appreciate in a greater way the things I took for granted before. A key to a front door, a kitchen to cook in but most of all an immeasurable amount of tolerance for those I judged before, those who have become an important part of my life and my life will be richer for theirs.

Well that’s my story. None of it would have been possible without the help and support of the staff, some very special to me but all with one aim. To care not judge, to guide not push and to make a difference.

I will always remember the first day but more importantly, I will remember my last with fondness and humility.

Paul Calvert 2012



Blogs » It doesn't get better than this

HI, I would just like to say a few words about the Arc Light Project and how it played a part in my personal journey of homelessness and drug addiction.

Anyway, I wanted to write this as although at the time I was not appreciative of the help that I was given, nor did I recognise it. I have now changed my life around a little and moved to another area.

To the staff: Thank you for your patience, the smelly mattress, the dirty covers, and free sandwiches that I was given all them years ago. I know now that this helped me to stay alive for another day and also to keep some form of kinship with the world around me. I grew up in York looking at homelessness and those with addiction problems as scum, and at times became a bully towards anyone that in that position. I then had to eat humble pie as I realised that I was one of them! the other, the outsider, the smack head, junkie, tramp (although I had enough denial at the time to still think I was better  and God’s gift, even with no teeth and track marks alover my body) Ha! Ha!

I just want to say that I think you are doing a great job with some of the most difficult people in our society. I know you all recognise that we are just products of the world around us and for many it is really not their fault they find themselves in this situation. Again thank you very much for your help!! Please also pass on my words to the residents...

A note for the residents - I was at one stage in the exact same place as you are in now and, for many, yours will be better. At the time I lived in the Arc Light, I was out grafting, selling, cheating, ripping people off and taking many class A drugs. My family disowned me, friends were ashamed of me and most people I came into contact with got their lives turned upside down. I spent many years of my life in prison and whilst all my friends were out making a life for themselves, meeting women, starting careers, partying, living happy memories, I was locked away in a 12-6 cell or staying on a smelly mattress in Arc Light (sorry staff but you must admit, the old place was like this). However all this came to an end, when I woke up to the fact that I can either stay on the margins of society, blaming the world, sucking up resentments, and entering more and more depression. Or I could bite the bullet, accept the help that I was offered, and make something of my life.

I have now changed my life around and went to University to study criminology. I achieved a BA Hons and then went onto to further this with a MA in human rights and ethics. Alongside this I knew that I had to use the experiences of life that I had to help other people and so started working for a project that helps people to recover from addiction. I have since set up three of these projects across the north of England and been lucky enough to receive promotions for my work, making me Area Manager for our services.

I have my own house, car, TV, clothes and most important memories. I have a loving relationship with a girl that I have been with for 6 years, and I am able to choose what I want to do with my life, not be dictated by the criminal justice system, welfare state, or any other hierarchy of power.

I am not writing this as a message of "the boy done good" as for me that is a load of crap. The reason I have managed to do this was through the values of the people that stood by me and loved me back into a person. Those who showed me I had potential, those who helped me to fight through the urges, cravings, and lifestyle for both drugs and crime. Those people that see through the masks I wore and recognised a person underneath, those people that understand drug users don’t fit into round holes all the time and systems only catch people, but don’t let them go. It is these I thank for my lifestyle now and it is these people that are working with yourselves.

I am sorry if this is going on a bit, please recognise that it is not from ego, but from my passion to expose others to recovery. I hope that through passing on a message it becomes contagious to others and an indigenous community of recovering addicts can be established in York.

With love, and respect


Blogs » Thanks for you Support!

Thanks for you Support!

Peter and Ginette Cobbold and I attended services  at St Leonard & St Mary's RC Church, Malton over the weekend of 22 and 23 January 2011 - and were handed a number of cheques and donations of nearly £1,000.

A cheque for £735, from various donations, was handed over by Father Tim Bywater. This included over £500 from passing the hat round at Father Tim’s recent ‘significant’ birthday party. Parishioners of all ages also gave money as they left the church including Celine Longworth, aged 5, who has been saving up her pocket money to hand over to Arc Light.

A further substantial cheque was discovered when the envelopes were opened back at Arc Light.

The parishioners heard how we do not just provide beds and food but are increasingly organising various courses to support those who seek our help to rebuild their lives and find an interest and skills, including current affairs, arts and crafts and IT. There is also, for example, a film club and a hair and beauty group.

We would like to start new activities but need more volunteers to help it.

The money donated from the church will be going towards developing such activities.

Our links with St Leonard's go back many years and it was a donation from St. Leonard’s 10 years ago which enabled us to equip our kitchen at the Bullnose building.

We  would like to thank you for all the generous donations received.

Father Tim said: "The church is at its most relevant when people's lives are damaged or in crisis and it is an essential element of our faith that inspires us to go to the help of people in need." 

Jeremy Jones - Chief Executive

If you would like to support Arc Light in any way, please go to the 'Support Us' section of our website for further details.