New social enterprise offers a ‘hand up’ not a ‘hand out’

21st July 2015

Time to Change (West Cumbria) is a project providing a safe place to accommodate the growing homeless population in West Cumbria.

Former police station Calderwood HouseThe former Police Station in Egremont, will be converted into a new social enterprise created to offer a ‘hand up’ not a ‘hand out’.  Due to open in September 2015, Calderwood House is a place of opportunity and a place of change. It not only offers a roof over people’s heads but life skills, apprenticeships, a health and well-being programme, paid work and most importantly, a new beginning to become a valued member of society once again. The project gives priority to ex-military personnel from West Cumbria.

Rachel Holliday, Company Director of the Time to Change (West Cumbria) Project said: “The Police and Crime Commissioner kindly agreed to lease to us the former police station for £1 a year peppercorn rent on a 25 year lease to become ‘Calderwood House’.

Rachel receiving the High Sheriff of Cumbria's Community Shield earlier this year
Rachel receiving the High Sheriff of Cumbria’s Community Shield earlier this year

“We are an abstinent based project which means drugs and alcohol are not allowed, we have drug and alcohol testing equipment on site. This is emergency accommodation with the view that the resident will move on to independent accommodation within six months. We are working with private and social landlords to ensure our residents are able to secure permanent accommodation before they leave.”

The social enterprise aims to be self-sustainable with only 5% of their income dependent on grant funding in the second year. Their income is a mixture of rent, income generated through social enterprise business, fundraising and sponsorship.

Rooms are sponsored by local businesses each year, who are encouraged to speak to residents regularly about the world of work, consider offering work experience placements and speak at events.

Currently, one in five people who are homeless are ex-service personnel. The criteria for finding accommodation for those who are homeless is very strict; of the 284 people who approached Copeland Council’s homeless department last year, only 19 met the criteria.

The NMP Community Fund awarded the social enterprise £15,000 towards the staff training programme. It was important that as well as their staff being committed, innovative and creative, that they are trained to a high standard to ensure their residents have the best support available to them.

Rachel continued: “Cumbria Community Foundation has supported me from the very beginning when all I had was an idea and a passion. As the Foundation is based locally, they know the issues we face, and they also understand the preconceptions other areas of the country has about us. We are not just a place of beautiful lakes and farms. We have real issues like the rest of the country, but our isolated geography makes it more difficult to tackle. I believe we can solve our own social issues in West Cumbria.  We can live in a community free of poverty with our grassroots initiatives working together with Cumbria Community Foundation to assist and support us.”

Those eligible for places at Calderwood House are referred from several agencies and will be “well-vetted’’. The project has been supported by Home Group, Inspira, and Whitehaven and Egremont District Credit Union.