Poole’s first building solely dedicated to helping the town’s homeless and vulnerably housed opens its doors on 21 March 2022. Genesis Centre on Hill Street is destined to become the hub for all support and help available locally from charities, churches and the local authorities – a one-stop place of change. The building is wholly owned and operated by Routes to Roots, which this month also celebrates its 20thanniversary.
The Reverend Pat Southgate, chair of R2R Trustees, spoke of her pride in all that the charity’s volunteers and supporters have been able to achieve: “This is a long-held dream come true. Twenty years ago we were able to bring rough sleepers off the streets for a hot meal for just a few hours on a couple of days a week. Now in that very same building, the old Baptist Church, we will be able to offer not only a hot meal but real life-changing support.
“We are extremely grateful to architect Ken Morgan who enabled us to secure both Listed Building Consent and Planning Application Approval in July 2020 and who has now brought us to the point of being able to open our doors. We are also thankful for the confidence shown in our vision by Talbot Village Trust, who not only provided an interest-free loan to enable us to buy the building but who have also contributed substantially to the renovation costs.”
Routes to Roots purchased the building outright in February 2020 – just in time for the country’s first lockdown. Despite this, the charity carried on with its plans for the complete restoration and refurbishment of the Grade II listed building. This was a major undertaking, which would have been impossible without the tremendous support shown both locally and nationally. Under the pro bono guidance of architect Ken Morgan, nine additional local professionals gave their time and expertise pro bono. Over the two years since the purchase, R2R received nearly £212,000 in grants from 18 foundations and trusts. At the move-in the works have cost nearly £270,000. Other money came from local businesses, churches, schools and individuals.
There is still work to be carried out on a second hall and to the outside of the building and the charity says that fundraising is continuing to pay for this. However, this does not impact its ability to run drop-ins and welcome back outreach partnersto provide addiction, mental and physical health support, chiropody, housing and benefit advice. Shower and laundry facilities are available and there are computers for clients’ use.
Just over two years after completing the purchase of the old Baptist Church on Hill Street, all R2R operations will be based at our newly renovated Genesis Centre from 21st March. We are holding a celebration at the Centre on 20 March to mark our 20 years of operation as a charity and the completion of the first stages of the refurbishment. During the following week we will move ourselves and our clients across town to our new home. Our new operating hours will initially be from 12:00 am to 2:30 pm, Monday – Friday. It is our intention to open longer hours as we recruit more volunteers.
We Are With You, who provide addiction support, will attend our Drop Ins on both Mondays and Thursdays between 1:00 pm and 2:00pm. Chiropody appointments will be offered by Jenny Fowler from Friday 25th March and occur on a monthly basis. In the near future, we will also regularly be joined by partners from St Mungo’s, Victim Support and both Mental and Physical Health Support services.
In May 2021 The Clothworkers’ Foundation confirmed that they have awarded us a grant of £35,000 towards the completion of the phase 1 work, which will allow our move-in. The Foundation was set up in 1977 to be the primary vehicle of charitable giving for The Clothworkers’ Company. Since then, they have awarded capital grants of more than £152 million. Today, their primary aim is to improve the lives of people and communities, particularly those facing disadvantage, deprivation and/or discrimination.
Build-up starts. After all the internal demolition, we have reached the stage of reconfiguring the internal layout. The scaffolding has been taken down and ceiling and lights finished with one more stained glass window to be re-installed. We have decided on an air source heat pump to provide underfloor heating and gas-fired boiler for hot water and are in the process of selecting contractors.
Clients will get online at Hill Street. Andy and Sara Powell at Poole IT are generously donating our IT equipment for free. They will also set up our broadband, wifi, telephone and internet café for clients, and give us on-going support. This new service will be a game-changer for our clients’ employment prospects and we are very grateful to them. Andy says: “Routes to Roots is an amazing opportunity for local business to give support at the very heart of community, We all see people in less fortunate positions that ourselves; therefore to help in a meaningful way by applying our professional skills is the least we can do. Having computers with safeguarding installed, and a safe internet connection will help connect the people in need with resources only available online.”
Geoffrey Morgan, a local organist and Organs Adviser to the United Reformed Church, contacted us to express interest in salvaging some of the pipework and electric blower from the Hill Street organ for use in other organs. We were delighted to accommodate his request, since the organ had been unusable for many years following a fire. Geoffrey also informed us that the organ case dates from the nineteenth century, had previously been installed in the former St. Paul’s Church in Poole, and hence is of historic interest to the Borough of Poole. Geoffrey offered his time to help with the dismantling of the organ and cleaned the console and brass plaque – we could not have managed such a successful dismantling without his help. We are keeping the front of the organ case, which is now at the back of the organ loft, fixed to the wall, so it can be appreciated by everyone who visits the building.
Our latest pro bono professional stonemason Sarah Klopper works at Salisbury Cathedral. As part of our Listed Building consent we are required to safeguard features of special architectural and historic interest, and Sarah will repair and relocate the memorial stones and carved stone signage currently located in the alleyway.Sarah says: “I’m looking forward to working on this project. There are so many buildings like this in the UK that are just crying out to be lovingly restored and what better way to do that than to support the homeless community.”
Work started in September and all the internal demolition is now complete: scaffolding is up; the suspended ceiling is down; the pews are out; and wiring for the lighting is in.We have received two further grants to help with our refurbishment from The Beatrice Laing Trust and JP Morgan.
Amanda Brint-Smee of Certa Services in Poole has joined our team of pro bono professionals. Amanda’s involvement in this project is to help guide the management team through the health and safety requirements under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. She will be there to ensure that the highest possible level of health and safety is provided to ensure that all workers, staff and visitors are kept safe during this development project. She will be on hand to provide documentation and advice wherever necessary. Amanda says: “The project is a very exciting one and the building that is to be used is ideally located, with the space helping to provide more help to people that are homeless or find themselves in vulnerable positions.”
Pro Bono Lighting Designer
Sherborne-based lighting designer John Bullock has offered his services free following an introduction by our architect Ken Morgan. John will not only do the lighting design for us but is also hoping to source good quality fixtures through his industry contacts and the on-line magazine he publishes for the UK lighting industry. John says: “One of the enduring fallacies that we hear constantly is ‘we’re all in this together’, when – of course – we certainly do not all experience life equally. We are NOT all in this together. Initiatives like Routes to Roots help to bridge an inequality gap that we all should be ashamed of and I’m happy to be able to provide my knowledge to the success of this project.”
Planning permission and listed building consent has been granted by BCP Council.
In July we heard that we are to receive a grant for £5000 from the Salisbury Diocesan Social Welfare Fund and two cheques arrived for £1000 from individual supporters. We are grateful for this support.
Pro Bono Surveyor
In June MC Plan and Site Services offered to do the building control for our building pro bono! Helen Cook says: “We are delighted to support your project in regards to a building control application at no cost to the charity. As a company we are very passionate about supporting local charities such as yourselves and will assign a surveyor to follow the project through from beginning to end. For us in Poole this is also something very close to our hearts, an extremely valuable cause in what your charity is trying to do for homelessness in Poole.”
Furniture and Office Equipment Donated
Albion Language Tour Company has donated office furniture and equipment including a full-size Xerox copier with scanner, folder and staple functions, 12 tables, some 40 chairs, filing cabinets and shelving. Manager Janet Wright says: “As we cannot accept our German students in the current crisis, we have given up our premises in favour of operating from home. We are happy to donate everything to your wonderful charity.”
Pro Bono Architect
Words from our pro bono architect Ken Morgan RIBA: “Thanks for inviting me to get involved with R2R in converting the Hill Street Chapel as a base/hub for Poole’s homeless community. It is an extremely worthwhile cause and one in which I have some personal interest.”
Pews to be Removed
Our new home is Grade 2 listed but in May we received permission to remove the pews, which has sparked lots of local interest. A local organist has also been in touch to ask for any parts of the old organ which he may be able to put to good use elsewhere. A request we are happy to grant.
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.