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.
We are delighted to announce that we are well on our way to achieving our dream of establishing a hub for the homeless and vulnerably housed in Poole.
The charity has purchased the former Hill Street Baptist Church, the Poole town centre building that housed R2R’s first drop-in sessions.
A key action over the last few years has been for R2R to get on a sound financial footing so we could explore every opportunity to find our own space in order to expand our services. We have been able to fund the purchase of the church from our own funds, a donation from Talbot Village Trust and a grant from Help the Homeless.
Substantial refurbishment is needed to make the premises fit for purpose, before we can move in, hopefully by September 2020. R2R is seeking financial support for essential renovations, which will include more efficient heating, a kitchen, toilets, showers and laundry facilities.
After moving to Hill Street, in the short-term R2R will maintain our existing services and add a weekly Sunday lunch. Looking further ahead, as funding and volunteer support permit, we aim to be open seven days a week and increase the outreach services offered to include financial advice, training and other opportunities to help clients move back into the community – to become a one-stop place of change.
Revd Pat Southgate, Chair and Founder of R2R says: “I am really proud of what all our volunteers and supporters have enabled us to achieve over the years. This is the result of all their faith in us and is a long-held dream come true. We are very grateful to Skinner Street URC for welcoming us for so many years and making us a part of their community. While very excited, this is a tremendous commitment for the charity and we will need all the support that Poole churches, organisations, businesses and individuals can continue to give us to make Hill Street Baptist Church a real Place of Change in Poole.”
Russell Lucas-Rowe, Trustee at Talbot Village Trust, says: “We are very pleased to have helped Routes to Roots expand their reach and services. The work they have been doing helping the rough sleepers for the last 20 years is very valuable to this community. We hope that, thanks to the funding, they will be able to help many more around Poole.”
The Patron of the charity, the Rt Revd Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne comments: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Routes to Roots to take their work to another level and affirms the commitment of the charity in its aims to alleviate homelessness. Further financial help is needed now to fulfil our vision. Please consider giving generously, knowing that every gift will give hope to those most in need of it.”