Time to tackle homelessness and unemployment in West Cumbria

30th July 2018

Historically in West Cumbria there has been little or no provision for homeless adults who do not fall into the ‘priority’ category in the local authority. This often means a life of sofa surfing, living in unsafe conditions, being subject to exploitation and living rough on the streets. Without a fixed address they cannot get work or access to training so are unable to start rebuilding their lives.

Time to Change (West Cumbria) was set up in 2013 to tackle the issue of homelessness and subsequent unemployment in the area. Calderwood House, an eleven bedroom hostel in Egremont was opened in 2015, prioritising homeless ex-service men and women.

Many residents struggle with issues associated with homelessness such as the feeling of isolation and loneliness and problems with mental health, as well as tackling drug and alcohol addiction. At Calderwood House they learn to live together in a community, sharing the cooking and cleaning, as well as developing skills and knowledge through work experience and training, including working on local community projects. One of the conditions of their stay is they stay free from drugs and alcohol, and testing is carried out.

It received £41,334 in 2017 from the Fresh Ideas Fund to help the charity improve its financial sustainability. It purchased a mobile coffee van from which residents sell its own brand specially blended coffee. The coffee is packaged in-house and sold to the consumer market. For the residents, the purchase of the van not only meant new training but also paid employment.

Rachel Holliday, Director at Time to Change, said: “The grant has meant we can provide a community supported programme of training and work experience, which improves the lives of residents and has a positive social impact, while generating additional income. Our clients have been able to work on the van and pay their service charge to us during the 8 – 10 week wait for universal credit. It has been a fantastic advertisement for Calderwood House; we have become a familiar face within the community and more people are buying our coffee.”

In 2018 Time to Change received a further £7,000 from the Lord Egremont Fund and the Shepley Group Fund to start a new allotment project. Residents work together, under the supervision of a trained horticulturist to grow vegetables that are then used in the kitchen. The project offers a safe and healthy space to work as a team, giving residents a support network to deal with issues such as isolation, depression and low self-esteem, as well as getting them out in the fresh air.

Rachel said: “We are always looking at new ways we can work with our community for the benefit of others. Thanks to the grant, residents have the delight of growing their own food, providing a healthy diet with lots of learning in the fresh air, as well as keeping food costs down in the hostel. We know this grant will leave a real legacy to help the homeless in our area.”

Since 2015, the charity has been awarded almost £70,000 in grants towards the running of the hostel and its projects.