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Mission accomplished as modular homes for the homeless installed in Cambridge

Modular homes close-up (35100321)
Modular homes close-up (35100321)

The modular homes project, which began last summer, moved closer to providing a new opportunity for homeless people in Cambridge with the delivery of the six units to their new Cambridge home.

With the day promising to be very windy, the haulage team began work at 5am today (May 22). The journey from Waterbeach Barracks, where they have been constructed, began with the units moved on to trailer units - three at the site.

They were then towed by lorry, one at a time, to their destination. By 8.30am three of the units were in place:

By lunchtime the last of the six units was by the side of the road, ready to be craned into position, a process which took less than five minutes. The haulage team, of three at the site, the crane driver and three van drivers - one vehicle was deployed as an outrider as the units are wide and heavy - then worked with the on-site team to ensure than the final unit slotted into its berth.

“They have to get it exactly right because the floor has to match up with the utility pipes rising up from the ground,” explained Martin Clark, CEO of Allia Impact. Allia, New Meaning and Jimmy’s Cambridge started the project from scratch to provide temporary homes for homeless people to live in - an an astonishingly ambitious project which is one the first of its kind in the UK.

Martin added: “Allia is incredibly grateful to those companies who sponsored the units – Brookgate, Hill, Howard Group, Marshall Property Group and Greater Cambridge Partnership; pro bono professional help from Barr Ellison, Carter Jonas, Corporate Architecture, Robert Myers Associates and WSP; Mick George for coordinating the site preparation free of charge; and of course the church for lending the land.”

Here’s the final unit being craned off the trailer:

Working with the on-site crew, the teams then line up the exact drop for the final unit for a project which has created six homes which are guaranteed to last 50 years - though they are not expected to be on their inaugural site for longer than three years.

One of the major benefits of the project was that New Meaning, which is run by Bottisham-based John Evans, took on a team with skills that were not being used in conventional settings.

“There were 11 work experience trainees,” says John, “including six ex-homeless, three long term unemployed and two introduced by CRC also benefitted from time on this project under supervisor, Peter Cairey, himself formerly homeless.”

One of the trainees, David Muiruri, was a former qualified design draughtsman in the Army. Another, Steve Hadaway, had also served in the Army, and joined the team of six as they made the homes from a blueprint by St Neots-based interior/furniture designer Simon Bray.

“I just clicked straight away,” Steve said. “It was just what I wanted to put back. But it’s also really important, it could be a new way forward to deal with homelessness – it’s not an answer, it’s an option.”

All the parts, frames, fittings and fixtures were bespoke for the project, which caused delays - though, as John noted, this meant that once the first one was made, things got a lot easier, and would be easier for any other organisation, including councils, that might be interested in the design.

“We are extremely grateful to Torie, Rebecca and Caroline at Urban & Civic for providing a workshop space at short notice,” he said of the Waterbeach Barracks owners. “We would also like to thank Greater Cambridge Partnership, executive chairman of Cambridge Innovation Parks Rick Parisi and Anne Sam, former chair of Ridgeons, who collectively gift aided substantially to make this all possible.”

The next stage is for the six residents - five homeless persons and a supervisor - to move in. This is expected to take place by mid-June, as Jimmy’s Cambridge evaluates the options. But for today, a team that has endured many setbacks - including having to cancel the installation day just as lockdown began in mid-March - but has endured and finally triumphed, is now able to say ‘mission accomplished’.

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