CHURCH leaders have come up with a new vision for the former Specsavers shop in Largs town centre as a counselling and advice centre.
The Church of Scotland are behind the launch of a new project to transform the Aitken Street premises into a safe haven for people with mental health problems and financial difficulties.
A CAP (Christians Against Poverty) debt centre will feature in the premises, with trained debt counsellors helping people work out a realistic budget to prioritise essential bills.
Reverend Jonathan Fleming, of St John's Church, told the News that he is hopeful of opening the new centre - to be called 'The Living Room' in the next few months.
He said: "We are planning on starting a community hub - a drop-in for people with mental health and poverty related issues.
"It will be for all ages and backgrounds, anybody can feel safe and essentially it is a place to call home
"The Living Room is the name we have given it just now and I hope the name sticks.
"A living room is a place you feel at home - you feel safe and feel able to talk.
"We hope it will be a safe space in the town where people can come and meet other folk and do things together."
Rev Fleming believes there is a big need for such a support facility after the closure of the Citizen's Advice Bureau and jobcentre in the town.
He said: "There is an interpretation that people who live in Largs must have money or they have it all together - that is not necessarily the case and that is why we feel there is a great need for The Living Room.
"Having the CAP debt centre is important as others are an extensive distance away from the town, and it means that local people in need of financial help.
"It isn't Largs specific and is also something for the surrounding towns and villages to use too.
"It will be a place to share and will be able to help people dealing with with mental health, poverty, or bereavement - sometimes these issues can be interconnected."
The old shop will have new tables, chairs and sofas and there will be free tea and coffee for those visiting.
The overall aim is to provide a calming and welcoming atmosphere.
Rev Fleming said: "We are looking for experienced volunteers who have dealt with matters such as mental health, and we also have a base of volunteers who will be getting trained up.
"We will have brand new books where people can learn more about mindfulness, wellbeing, and exploring the Christian faith as this will be a church-run facility and we won't be shying away from that.
"We are hoping to work with Largs Churches Together and it will be cross denominational.
North Ayrshire Council's Choose Life Team have also offered their assistance in the new venture and will offer safe talk training for 30 volunteers.
Rev Fleming said: "At present it is a very long referral time for people with mental health difficulties and we are looking to bridge this gap.
"We aren't able to cure or fix the problem but we are able to work alongside and allow people to express their feelings openly and provide a listening ear."
As the property has two floors there will be an 'upper room' where people can take part in activities such as arts and crafts.