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Supporters celebrate modular homes opening for Cambridge’s homeless

Jimmy’s Cambridge chief executive Mark Allan outside the modular homes. Picture: Mike Scialom
Jimmy’s Cambridge chief executive Mark Allan outside the modular homes. Picture: Mike Scialom

Donors and supporters gathered on Friday (June 12) to officially launch six new modular homes for homeless people.

The homes were designed and built over nine months by a team including Allia Future Business Centre, New Meaning and Jimmy’s Cambridge, with Diocese of Ely also supporting the project.

Representatives from local companies and organisations that provided donations, services and support visited the homes and looked around the units.

A delighted Mark Allan, chief executive of Jimmy’s Cambridge, said: “The new modular homes, or ModHomes, are a great opportunity for people in need of a home in Cambridge. Residents will be able to stay for a few months or a few years, possibly even longer. What Jimmy’s aims to do is help people get back on their feet, and when they are ready to move onto more permanent accommodation, or onto a different phase in their lives, we support them to do that.

“Jimmy’s has remained open 24/7 throughout the lockdown, supporting people experiencing homelessness. These new homes provide some positive news for our residents, staff and volunteers – and for Cambridge - after a very challenging few months.”

Dr Gemma Burgess, director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and chair of the Cambridge Ahead Housing Group, stressed the unique nature of the project - a first in the UK.

“We are working with Allia and Jimmy’s to conduct research on the impacts of the modular housing scheme, seeking to identify the benefits to residents and to the wider society,” said Dr Burgess. “This housing project shows what can be achieved when the city’s community works together to provide local solutions to homelessness. It makes innovative use of modern methods of construction and under utilised land to provide six much needed homes for local homeless people.”

Emma Fletcher, director of Hill, is also a fan.

“This project shows that it takes a wide, diverse group of people to tackle the growing challenge of housing the homeless,” she said, “with everyone in the community playing their role and collaborating together. Lockdown has really shone a light on homelessness which, if left unaided, will continue to grow in every town and city, not just Cambridge. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to sponsor this important first step and would encourage others to come forward to help bring forward further homeless initiatives to support the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Continuing the theme of the modular homes being rolled out in other parts of the UK, Christopher Walkinshaw, group director of external relations and communications, said: “We have been delighted to support this unique initiative and look forward to seeing the new homes welcoming their first residents. We congratulate all the parties involved who conceived and delivered this forward-thinking initiative, which can now be rolled out in other locations in this area and around the country.”

The homes will finally welcome their residents next week, with six formerly homeless people moving in and receiving personalised support from Jimmy’s.

Looking ahead Martin Clark, deputy CEO of Allia, said: “In terms of the future: we hope there will be offers of support and land for more units and would love to enable more young trainees and homeless people to be trained in constructing them. This could be part of the green recovery the country needs, especially as we fear there will be a new rise in homelessness when the effects of the recession hit.”

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