The Salvation Army has hosted a successful Open Afternoon to showcase its new £9 million residential centre in Harnall Lane West, Coventry, CV1 1EZ.
Named ‘Harnall Lifehouse,’ the new facility is set to replace the 99-bed building in nearby Lincoln Street where The Salvation Army has served people who are homeless in the city since 1973.
Capable of accommodating up to 80 residents in purpose-built, modern surroundings, Harnall Lifehouse comprises state-of-the-art ICT facilities, an Employment Resource Centre and a community café that will be open to the public. Residents will also have access to a range of vocational and practical life skills courses to help them overcome the causes of homelessness.
Hundreds of attendees, ranging from local community workers, past and current residents and staff, were treated to guided tours of the aforementioned facilities plus the residential areas in which clients will live in ‘clusters’ of five, sharing a modern kitchen and a communal dining area – designed to give them advance preparation for independent living.
“We had a great turnout throughout the day and we are pleased to be have the building complete and to be so close to being fully operational,” said award-winning lifehouse manager Nathan Slinn. “A new centre has been in the pipeline for a long time and it is a great facility to serve the homeless in.”
Nathan, who was named Centre Manager of the Year at The Salvation Army’s Lifehouse Awards last year, courtesy of a string of accomplishments; such as increasing the rate of positive moving on of residents into employment, education, training and independent living by 400% within three years. In addition, the centre’s promotion of resident volunteering, such as the H.O.P.E. Project, has had a fantastic effect on improving residents’ self-worth.
Standing for Helping Other Projects Evolve, H.O.P.E. works to help local community organisations and lifehouse residents rebuild their lives. One recent activity was the design and building of a pathway and handrail around a local resource centre to give its blind and visually-impaired visitors easier access and greater independence.
Nathan anticipates the new location to be capable of encouraging even more success amongst clients: “It will be easier to pass on the concept of our centre being a place of change being based in a brand new, purpose-built building, which will better reflect what we are about and what we believe the residents can achieve.”
Due to the incorrectly negative impressions of The Salvation Army’s residential centres, in March 2010, the church and charity took the decision to abandon the word ‘hostel’ in favour of ‘lifehouse’ to better reflect the fact that the centres all provide a range of academic, vocational, life skills (i.e. budgeting, healthy eating and smoking cessation) and resettlement courses to enable residents to build a new life, free of the problems that initially caused them to become homeless.
As with all of the 70+ residential centres in the UK, Harnall Lifehouse will continue in this vein in partnership with a range of housing, medical, vocational and educative agencies across the city.
Existing Lincoln Street residents are to be relocated by late January, with a view to admitting new clients by March.
Project worker Kirk Savage spoke about the new lifehouse on Shane O’Connor’s Breakfast Show on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire the morning following the showcase.