Homelessness Wiltshire Feb 2013

New Life for Historic St Paul’s Homes

Grade II listed almshouses that have lain empty for almost a decade have been brought back into use with the help of construction and property industry charity CRASH.  Situated in the heart of Salisbury, St Paul’s Homes now provide 12 one person flats for previously homeless people from the immediate area.

The need

“We wanted to restore these flats at St Paul’s and create a community where conditions flourish to enable people to develop their skills, regain their self-esteem and take a more meaningful place in society,” said Brian Swann, Director of Operations and Partnerships at Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA), worked with Salisbury Trust for the Homeless to restore St Paul’s Homes to enable them to once again provide vital accommodation in the city.

The solution

Each of the 12 flats now has a small bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom.  New kitchen fittings, sanitary ware and a gas fired central heating system has been installed along with new floor coverings throughout. All of the ‘unsympathetic’ pavings in tarmac and concrete have been removed and re-laid using stone paving slabs and raised beds have been introduced in the inner court yard creating an attractive communal area.

How patrons helped

CRASH became involved with the project at the outset providing pro bono professional expertise via patron companies EC Harris and Galliford Try.  The total value of CRASH’s help was £76,240 which included this professional expertise as well as materials donated by CRASH patrons and supporters British Gypsum, Lafarge Plasterboard (now called Siniat Ltd) Altro and Lecaflor and MK Electrical and CRASH awarded the project a cash grant including a donation from The Story of Christmas Appeal.

The social impact

The motivation behind the plans was ‘to empower people who are ready to take the next steps towards independent living and into employment, education or training.’
CRASH was delighted to be involved with such a unique, interesting project.  Helping to bring Grade II listed almshouses back into use providing homes for vulnerable members of Salisbury’s community was a privilege.  But this would not have been possible without the backing of CRASH’s patron and supporting companies who give their time and materials so generously.

Background

St Paul’s Home was founded in 1863 by Salisbury land agent Francis Attwood. The houses were erected in two phases, the first block of three being opened in 1863, the second in 1868.
Each house had its own courtyard and outbuildings for fuel storage and washing, while the surrounding garden was for the use of all the residents. The Home was listed as Grade II on 12 October 1972 and, externally, the houses still appear as they did when built.
The almshouses were intended to provide suitable homes for six single women, with limited incomes, aged 50 or over, who were resident in the diocese of Salisbury.
As the 20th century progressed the financial situation worsened and eventually the annual allowance was discontinued.  By the mid-20th century social conditions had changed and potential candidates for the almshouses were increasingly hard to find.
The lack of modern amenities and generous size of the houses meant they were expensive to run. In 1961 Salisbury Round Table converted the six houses into 12 flats as their major charitable project.
Appropriate residents remained hard to find with the last two occupants leaving in 2005 when the building, which was in dire need of refurbishment, was judged unsuitable for them.

Resident’s story

Fleur Kemsley is one of the first residents to move into St Paul’s Homes.  Her story shows how homelessness can happen to anyone, at any time.

“I was an art teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, taught pottery at the college and had a home where I lived with my family. Everything was going to plan.

Then my daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma and I found that I just couldn’t cope. I became very depressed and ill myself although, thank goodness, my daughter made a full recovery.  I was admitted to a mental health unit for treatment but whilst there my marriage broke down.

Suddenly I found myself with no income, no home and no hope.  I was homeless for about 18 months – just like that everything fell apart.  I stayed in a hostel but really wanted a place of my own. My new flat is fantastic. It feels like a new start. It’s great to have my own space.

Being homeless you get no privacy, although at the same time it’s very isolating and you lose friends.  I’d like to get back into work one day but in the meantime I could do some volunteering and befriending for people with mental illness.

Also, I can now be a mother to my children rather than them looking after me.”

“When someone becomes homeless, having no stable place to call home, it is often a long road back to independence. BCHA and Salisbury Trust for the Homeless have  provided that secure base to enable many people to rebuild their lives, by giving them support and encouragement to help overcome the issues which have led to homelessness.”

Brian Swann

Director of Operations and Partnerships at BCHA

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