CRASH works with its Patrons to create positive, caring environments for homelessness charities and hospices. These partnerships bring together extensive construction expertise to improve the mental wellbeing of vulnerable, homeless individuals, as well as patients, staff and volunteers.
1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems. This figure doubles among people who are homeless and there is an increasing prevalence of terminal illness in those with mental health problems. Not only that, individuals working in frontline homelessness projects and hospices experience higher levels of stress than many of their counterparts in other professions.
Taking all these factors into account makes it essential to look at the whole picture – considering the needs of clients, patients, staff and volunteers – when creating caring environments within the homelessness and hospice sectors.
These were among the reasons that led CRASH to expand its beneficiary base at the beginning of last year to support hospices as well as homelessness charities with their building projects. Like homelessness charities, hospices do crucial work to support people at their most vulnerable, and the environments in which they do this have a huge impact on the wellbeing of both residents and carers.
There are many parallels between patient/client and staff needs in both sectors, especially in terms of improving mental health and reducing stress. However, until CRASH extended its support at the beginning of this year, there had been no direct link between the two sectors to enable shared learnings to be put into practice.
Dulux Trade brings its interior design expertise to CRASH projects
The concept of creating places that care for people can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks, who designed temples around nature, music and art to help restore harmony and promote healing. But while the Greeks focused their design on those who were ailing, CRASH believes equal consideration must be given to the individuals who are caring for homeless, vulnerable or sick people.
With this in mind, CRASH has been working closely with Patron company Dulux Trade to create colour schemes conducive to improving the mental health of clients, patients, staff and volunteers at homelessness and hospice charities.
“A wealth of research has been conducted into the psychology of colour and whether it can have a tangible effect on people,” says Dulux Trade’s Jo McMullen. “While these claims are not set in stone, and evidence sometimes conflicts, academic studies can help provide ideas when creating the best possible environment for those suffering from mental health issues.
“We need to consider not just which but also how much of a particular colour is used. For example, it has been suggested that orange stimulates mental activity, which could be beneficial in environments where people might be spending a long period of time and require inspiration.
“However, there are not many people who would be comfortable long term in a room in which all the walls were painted bright orange; more often it is used in schemes to add interest and inspiration.
“On the other hand, using orange shades in a place where people are suffering from psychological conditions might be considered too emotionally stimulating and have a negative impact. In these environments we would tend to recommend softer, more soothing shades.
“Good design is all about considering the specific needs of the occupants.”
CRASH and Patrons renovate The Pilsdon Community, Dorset
British Gypsum, a Patron of CRASH for over 20 years, has launched Evidence Space a website dedicated to Evidence Based Design (EBD). EBD refers to the use of credible evidence to shape building design, and provides the link between academic research and real-life building user benefits. Although its roots are in healthcare, EBD’s principles can be applied to create caring environments in other areas such as homelessness, which in turn can improve the mental health of their users.
Along with other Patrons, British Gypsum was involved in a major CRASH project to renovate and rebuild The Pilsdon Community, a working farm and refuge in Dorset. Homeless people come to this community from all walks of life, always at a time of crisis such as recovering from family breakdown, mental illness, addiction or coping with bereavement – issues that could touch us all at some point.
British Gypsum not only donated materials but also gave vital technical and environmental advice during the build, working with other suppliers and members of the community to complete the project.
BAM Construct UK was the main contractor on the project. “You meet people with difficult circumstances,” says Regional Construction Director Nick Goff. “Some like to talk, and you hear all about their problems. Even if they don’t want to talk at all, that doesn’t matter. And it’s a busy place – you don’t realise how many people there are who need help, but who don’t seem to fit into the formal social services framework.”
CRASH works with Patrons to meet the needs of those experiencing mental health issues
“Discussing mental health problems openly remains incredibly difficult for many people,” says CRASH’s Emma Brophy. “Because we work collaboratively with homelessness and hospice charities on their building projects, CRASH gains a unique insight into the needs of clients, patients, staff and volunteers. Taking these insights and matching them to the expertise of our Patron companies ensures the best possible results are achieved for everyone involved.
“Also, enabling others to be directly involved with improving people’s lives in this way helps us all to develop a better understanding of some of the issues others face. Understanding breeds tolerance which in turn creates a more open, positive and caring environment not just for vulnerable, homeless and terminally ill people and those who care for them, but society as a whole.”