Following our acquisition of the former Hill Street Baptist Church, we have embarked on an extensive refurbishment programme to convert the historic building into a permanent base for the town’s homeless and vulnerably housed. Hailed as ‘A Place for Change’, the Hill Street outreach facility is being fully renovated .
The aim of this important new outreach facility is to help people in Poole who are without permanent accommodation achieve lasting positive change in their lives. Facilities such as showers, toilets, a laundry, hot food, clothing and sleeping bags will be provided in addition to crucial access to outreach workers for addiction and mental health support, nurses, chiropodists, housing and benefit advisors.
“Thanks to some extremely generous grants and fundraising support from our volunteers, local schools, companies and churches, we have made a fantastic start towards reaching our target of £150,000, which means we are all set to start working on this exciting project,” commented Reverend Southgate. “Our first task will be to remove and sell the beautiful antique pitch pine pews to make a central space where clients can relax, feel safe and talk in confidence to outreach teams. We are hoping to raise in the region of £3000 from the sale of the pews, which would help fund the cost of installing our all-important shower facilities.”
Routes to Roots was recently awarded a grant of £5,000 from The Haddon Trust, a charity that specialises in providing relief for those in poverty and without permanent accommodation. The grant will help fund a new kitchen and the associated white goods and equipment needed to cater for up to 50 clients.
Local support from Poole’s residents and business community has been very positive and the charity has received full backing for the project from Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, who understands the positive impact that the hub will have both on the vulnerable people being helped and the local community. Under current plans, the Hill Street renovations are due to be completed by late Autumn 2020, subject to the ongoing restrictions imposed due to the Coronavirus crisis.
As a trustee of Routes to Roots, I was very excited about Hill St Baptist Church but at the same time very aware of the huge needs associated with transforming the building to be a Place for Change. I wanted to do something that not only raised money but also actually got the issue into the wider community, rather than simply targeting those who were already supporters of Routes to Roots. I have always thought of Lent as not merely a time of giving up stuff but also giving away to others so I decided this was the perfect time to do some fundraising – little did I know how things were going to change.
I love a good cooked breakfast and I know others do too so I decided to offer this to others, but for donations to Routes to Roots. I set a target of around £300, which would cover the cost of a washing machine for the new building and I set aside three Saturday mornings in March to do this using the Church Centre at St James. I advertised via my own Facebook page and also set up a page for people to give electronically if they couldn’t be there in person. Lots of friends shared this and it was advertised around St James, the wider community, my sea swimming group and also the local Lifeboat Crew. With a team of helpers, we managed to serve over 30 breakfasts on the first Saturday and on the second Saturday, with people heeding the Coronavirus warnings, we were down to around 20. By the third Saturday we were closed down. However, we were overwhelmed with the support we got for these breakfasts. The total amount raised on the two Saturdays was just over £400. I was also very generously given a further £400 from personal donations towards Routes to Roots.
Coronavirus cut us short, but when we are out of this crisis I intend to open up the Holt Café at St James again for a few more Saturdays. I was overwhelmed with the support I received: the good will towards the cause was evident. It was a simple thing to do but the results were so much more than the money in raising the profile of the new building through our local community. A huge thanks to my willing team of helpers who served, cooked and washed up.
Routes to Roots is extremely sorry to cancel our planned open afternoon on 15 March to celebrate our acquisition of the former Hill Street Baptist Church. In light of the highly infectious nature of Coronavirus and anticipated advice to avoid large gatherings, we believe we must play our part by not holding an event, which may, however minimal the risk, help spread the virus. In particular, we are concerned about our clients, the homeless and formerly homeless, who are particularly vulnerable members of our community but also take this step to protect our volunteers, supporters and their families.
We will keep a close eye on the situation and re-schedule as soon as we can.
And now the good news: We are pressing ahead, with the help of a pro bono local architect, with building plans and estimates, and busily seeking grants and donations to fund the work which will make the building fit for purpose. We are extremely appreciative of the support we have so far received, which means we can make a start, but there’s still a long way to go and all contributions will be gratefully received. We still hope that we can move into the building this Autumn in time for winter. This WILL become the centre for all help for the homeless and vulnerably housed in Poole.
If you would like to look round the building as an individual or talk to us about our plans, we would love to hear from you. We want everyone to keep on talking about this great new development.