Charity & Developers plan Shipping Container Village to Tackle City Homelessness

The first of its kind in the UK aiming to get the city's homeless back on their feet...

Manchester-based charity, Embassy, is planning to create a new ‘village’ community to help the city’s homeless and vulnerable men get back on their feet.

Supported by developers Peel L&P and CAPITAL&CENTRIC, the Embassy Village will provide up to 40 new permanent modular homes, made from repurposed shipping containers. It will be located on a self-contained, currently derelict site owned by Peel L&P, below the railway arches between the Bridgewater Canal and River Irwell in the city centre.

It will provide safe, secure homes for people who are homeless or at the risk of being homeless with in-house start to end support and routes into work. Vulnerable people are housed and then surrounded by the support and training they need to leave the cycle of homelessness.

Alongside high quality homes the Embassy Village will include a Village Hall, which will become a community hub and training and mentoring facility for residents, and communal outdoor space with plenty of greenery, a multi use sports area, space to grow vegetables as well as external eating and socialising areas.

Plans for Embassy Village are being launched amidst the closure of dormitory style shelters due to lockdown and social distancing measures, and growing concerns across frontline charities that there will be an increased need for homelessness support and temporary accommodation services as a result of the pandemic.

Government COVID-19 support measures, such as a ban on evictions and funding to house rough sleepers in hotels, are also due to end in the spring, heightening fears across the city’s charity sector that this could drive a spike in homelessness.

At the village, the charity’s team of resettlement workers and volunteers will provide wrap-around support of at least six hours per week per resident to equip them with a range of life skills including shopping & budgeting, cooking, and how to manage a home as well as a course designed to help residents unpack past traumas and grow in confidence. The self-contained site will be managed 24/7 by Embassy’s experienced team.

Embassy’s training and mentoring programme is also being designed to boost residents’ work readiness through job application, interview support and wider training.

The charity plans to build on its successful track record of helping residents to resettle into secure long-term accommodation and find routes back into work by collaborating with local employers. 12 companies are already signed up to offer employment. Embassy would be glad to hear from more companies interested in partnering.

Sid Williams of Embassy said:

“This pandemic has only gone to further strain the resources of the poorest in our society and we sadly expect to see homelessness increase. We recently housed a chap who spent seven years going from shelter to shelter ever waiting for his golden ticket to a council flat – it never came. Our approach is to provide rented housing and formally end homelessness from day one. We aim to get people into full time work and private rental sector housing, rather than council housing and benefits

“We interview everyone we assist and what we look for is a willingness to make progress, learn and, where possible, to work. The Village will provide residents with their own front door, and teach them the life skills they need to become independent and start contributing to society again. We’re so grateful for the generous support Peel L&P and CAPITAL&CENTRIC have shown us, as well as all the other companies who’ve made this project possible.”

The initiative sees husband and wife team, Sid and Tess Williams, continue to think outside the box and innovate in their fight improve the way homelessness is tackled in our city.

They launched the charity in 2019 and started by finding a second life for a luxury tour bus as an emergency shelter and support centre to help people get off the street, housed and into work.

James Whittaker, Executive Director at Peel L&P said:

“It’s been a real joy and a privilege to bring together the business community to help create our vision to deliver a special project to reduce Manchester’s homelessness by transforming our land beneath some railway arches in the city into much needed housing for the homeless.

“We’re delighted to partner with Embassy, a charity who will make a huge difference in helping vulnerable adults to obtain better lives through their restoration programme by getting them into housing, employment and independent living.

“We’re proud to be able to provide the land for this Housing First Community and we would like thank the generosity and support of everyone who has been involved in this project to bring this vision to fruition. We hope to gain further support needed at the public consultation.”

Tim Heatley, co-founder of social impact developers CAPITAL&CENTRIC and Chair of the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity said:

“We’ve worked with Embassy for the last few years, helping them to get the original bus off the ground, but we’ve always had the vision to create something more permanent that gives people their own front door. Making sure it’s really high quality, with communal areas like the village hall and sports area, has been super important as we want the future residents to be proud of their community.”

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:

“Meeting the growing demand for emergency accommodation to support people vulnerable to homelessness is a major challenge – particularly at this time of year when the number of people asking for support, particularly people sleeping rough, is at its height.

“Developing a Housing First opportunity in the city is welcome and I hope this type of community has the potential to provide life-changing help for people facing homelessness in Manchester.”

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To take part in the consultation visit www.embassyvillage.co.uk and complete the online questionnaire.

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