‘She’s been with me for two weeks and it’s great to have her back’

TOGETHER Anthony Henry with his two-year-old daughter Cassie Paskou
TOGETHER Anthony Henry with his two-year-old daughter Cassie Paskou
Former Great British Bake Off contestant Enwezor Nzegwu takes part in a 24-hour treadmill relay at Portsmouth University Gym to raise money for cystic fibrosis. Fellow participant Dannii Hutchins gives support. 'Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180224-1)

Bake-Off star organises 24-hour charity run at University of Portsmouth

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Feeding his daughter toast and giving her milk in a cup, this morning scene looks like any other breakfast table.

Even though two-year-old Cassie Paskou is playing up, her dad Anthony Henry patiently calms her down and makes sure she has finished her food.

His daughter means the world to him and, like any doting dad, he’ll do all that he can for her.

That’s why he moved from Petersfield to Portsmouth and turned to a hostel to give him accommodation – just so he can be with his daughter.

Anthony isn’t the only person to have turned to St Monica’s House, in Lucknow Street, Fratton, in their time of need.

The hostel, which is run by the Portsmouth Churches Housing Association, provides a roof over people’s heads.

There are 10 bedrooms, communal kitchens and bathrooms, plus a living room and a garden.

Independent living is encouraged and residents are taught the skills needed to encourage them to achieve that.

For Anthony, this hostel has given him the vital base needed to be with his daughter again.

Sadly, Cassie had to be taken into foster care. But 19-year-old Anthony passed the assessments which cleared a path for him to spend time with her.

He gave up a home and job in Petersfield in order to take up the room in the hostel while he worked on making that happen.

‘I had been here for about two months before I was able to have Cassie again,’ he explains.

‘She’s been with me for two weeks and it’s great to have her back. But now I want to concentrate on getting my own place and finding a job again.

‘I’ve got family in Petersfield, London and Nottingham but I needed to come to Portsmouth as that’s where Cassie was put into foster care.’

Anthony is a trained lifeguard and gym instructor and now plans to settle down in Fratton. He also plans to train as a masseuse.

‘Everyone at the hostel is really helpful. My support worker is great too,’ he adds.

‘The life skills course is great as well. It gives you the skills you need to be as independent as possible.

‘In the nicest way, I do want to be out as soon as I can – even though this is a great place.

‘It’s very good at providing a family environment for us and means I can be with Cassie.’

This year the housing association is celebrating its 100th birthday.

It was founded in 1911 by a group of church-going women in response to the levels of homelessness in Portsmouth.

When it first began it was known as the Portsmouth Free Church Women’s Council Housing Association but this name was changed several years ago.

The association runs two hostels, St Monica’s House, and St Paul’s House, in St Paul’s Road, Southsea.

The scheme has evolved and executive officer Sue Brotherston explains how that has happened: ‘It began by helping women, then families and now single fathers, such as Anthony.

‘All referrals for the hostels come from Portsmouth City Council and users are people classed as homeless with support needs.

‘We get a lot of young people that we help get them on track. As well as giving them a roof over their heads we also teach them skills so they can go on and look after themselves.

‘This includes having life skills programmes teaching residents how to cook, clean and look after children.’

The association is largely funded from central government but money is also generated through donations, table top sales and money left in wills.

On Monday, the association will hold a thanksgiving service to mark its centenary.

The 11.30am service will take place at the Buckland United Reform Church, in Kingston Road, Buckland.

Guests will include Portsmouth’s Lord Mayor, Cheryl Buggy, and members of the association.

‘It’s amazing to think the association has lasted for as long as it has,’ adds Sue. ‘I don’t know if the women who started this thought it would turn into something so big.

‘I guess for as long as there’s a need then we will continue to provide the service.’

Parties will also be held in each hostel to celebrate the 100 years. St Paul’s House will hold its celebrations on June 30, while St Monica’s House will host its party on July 1.

Entertainment includes face painting, a magician, games, plus outdoor fun. Former residents have also been invited to attend the get-together.