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Modular homes for homeless ‘ready in time for Christmas’

New Meaning’s modular homes will be located at the Christ the Redeemer church in Barnwell
New Meaning’s modular homes will be located at the Christ the Redeemer church in Barnwell

Six modular homes will be made available for homeless people at the Christ the Redeemer church in Barnwell by Christmas.

The homes will be introduced as part of a new ‘Home First’ project involving Allia Future Business Centre, Jimmy’s night shelter, Holy Cross parish and New Meaning, a not-for-profit which has developed thestructures.

Subject to planning permission on October 2, the six homes will be made available to homeless or formerly homeless people. It is expected that the structures will be craned onto the site next to the Newmarket Road, assembled and put to use there for at least two years.

New Meaning is a social enterprise and “innovator in individual attitude development, community enterprise, ethical construction and social action”. The organisation, which is run by Bottisham-based John Evans, has already completed similar schemes in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and Gambia.

“In the UK, we started a vocational construction skills and new-build social enterprise in High Wycombe in 2015 and are looking to replicate this in Cambridge,” John told the Cambridge Independent. “The Home First project is the first move into construction training here for us.

“There will be five homes to be rented by ex-homeless people and one offered to another tenant in exchange for some oversight and caretaking responsibilities.

“After two to three years they will be relocated to another ‘meanwhile’ site. The tenants will retain tenure in perpetuity as long as they meet conditions about behaviour, care of the property and so on.

“We will build offsite for craning into place. Three of our existing workers will build the units and we plan to train two or three young ex-homeless adults from YMCA on each unit.

“The project is aiming to develop philanthropic finance and to find further sites which would then allow us to train and employ and house further Cambridge ex-homeless people.”

Homelessness in the UK has been at shocking levels for years
Homelessness in the UK has been at shocking levels for years

Martin Clark, managing director of Allia Innovation Research, said: “Allia is excited to lead this effort to create innovative new housing for those who want to escape homelessness in Cambridge.

“We support the city council’s Housing First approach to sustainable housing solutions, and we believe the design of the units and the support we have commissioned will work really well for this approach.

“We’re delighted that Jimmy’s will bring all their 25 years of experience to bear, including the houses they run in Cambridge, to reassure local residents that the scheme will be well run.

“As part of the Home First project, we recognise that it’s a big team effort and we are grateful to the property companies that are sponsoring the units, and several professional firms giving their time free of charge, to help make this happen.

“Above all we are grateful to the vicar and church council at Christ the Redeemer for supporting the project until their site is redeveloped in a year or two’s time. Land is always the challenge in Cambridge but as a ‘meanwhile site’ this changes the equation.”

Henry Brown, the inspiration and CEO of Jimmy's Night Shelter on East Road. Picture: Keith Heppell
Henry Brown, the inspiration and CEO of Jimmy's Night Shelter on East Road. Picture: Keith Heppell

Revd Dr Roger Williams, of Holy Cross parish which is home to the Christ the Redeemer church, said: “As a church in an area of social need, we have been engaged with those who are homeless in a variety of ways over many years.

“The project to move people into proper housing as a step into a new and self-sustaining lifestyle is one that we fully support. As a church we have little by the way of financial resource but we do have some land which suits the need for this project perfectly.”

Though this is a first for Cambridge, New Meaning’s experience includes creating a social enterprise organisation in High Wycombe called The Toolshed, which began in 2015and has enabled more than 80 young people to start a career in construction. Over 85 per cent of graduates from The Toolshed – who come from varied and challenging backgrounds and have left school with little or no qualifications – have progressed into work and/or further training.

Jimmy’s has been providing help for the homeless in Cambridge for more than 20 years, delivering 24/7 emergency accommodation and supported housing for those who would otherwise be homeless or vulnerably housed.


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