On Thursday 9 September, representatives from BCHA’s Homelessness, Health and Wellbeing, Development and Customer, Homes and Tenancy services, met with members of the local community at Holy Trinity Church & Community Centre in Yeovil for three fully booked appointment-only sessions to give more information on the service and accommodation plans for Acacia Lodge in Hendford Hill, from a care home to a supported housing service for people with a local connection to South Somerset (SSDC).
The Q & A sessions, which were by appointment only due to COVID19 restrictions at the venue, were attended by 90 people, giving them the opportunity to learn more and have their questions or concerns addressed. However, for those who were unable to attend, BCHA is happy to answer any questions, which can be emailed to: email@example.com – marked: Acacia Lodge change of use planning application.
BCHA’s aim with Acacia Lodge is to provide improved and more suitable homes for customers referred by SSDC, aged 18 and over, who are homeless and who may be rough sleeping, moving them into settled accommodation, with high levels of support, enabling them to move forward positively towards a more permanent housing option.
It is only since 1 April 2020, right near the start of the first Covid Lockdown that BCHA has delivered support in Yeovil at Pathways, Newton Road, a 30-bed accommodation centre, which it currently manages under a contract with South Somerset District Council (SSDC).
It is generally acknowledged that Pathways and its location in Newton Road are no longer fit for purpose from both an operational and structural perspective, and BCHA has been looking for alternative premises more suited to customers, support staff, local support agencies and the wider community. The Covid pandemic has accelerated the recognition of the need to identify alternative provision.
Acacia Lodge will provide improved en suite accommodation, as well as more spaces for activity, training and personal development along with staff on site 24 hours, seven days a week to ensure everyone living there gets the best opportunity to move forward and prevent any future homelessness. This will give the same levels of care and support as a care home, although it does involve a planning class change of use as a Supported Housing service. Subject to this planning change, BCHA will be purchasing the building and its grounds.
Relocation to these premises will provide BCHA’s customers with a psychologically informed environment (PIE), which is designed to take into account the psychological and emotional needs as well as the physical accommodation and safety.
BCHA uses the PIE and trauma informed approaches across all aspects of its work including: relationships, staff training and support, the physical environment, our psychological framework and evaluation. Staff focus on developing positive relationships with customers based on trust, mutual respect and dignity – fundamental cornerstones in supporting people to move on with their recovery.
Commenting on the public consultation, BCHA CEO Martin Hancock, said:
“The views of the local community are extremely important to us and we are looking forward to meeting as many people as possible to discuss our plans for Acacia Lodge. This site represents an important opportunity for BCHA to give individuals who are currently supported in our Pathways housing service, a new home that provides a much better space and environment and more suitable location away from the centre of town. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has impacted on BCHA’s normal plans to engage with the community through events and activities run by BCHA and its partner agencies, as part of the delivery of support. This public meeting is the first opportunity to meet local residents face to face to share what BCHA does and can do to support people to take control of their lives and move onto independence and employment.”
“Acacia Lodge is not a night shelter, it will be a home for our residents who will live there as part of the community, for many months and with round the clock support always available. We have highly skilled and experienced managers, support workers and tenancy officers to ensure our customers understand their responsibilities, as well as setting out their ambitions for themselves in the future to inspire change. We will continue to work closely with partners such as community safety teams and local SSDC council officers to ensure our neighbours and our customers and the local community have a great place to live and enjoy.”
Caroline Moylan, BCHA’s Director of Homelessness, Health and Wellbeing, said:
“We actively encourage our residents to be practically involved in the running of what is in essence their own home. We hold house meetings and encourage them to provide feedback. We encourage people to face their own personal circumstances and journey and to develop a sense of confidence in what they want their lives to be.
“The move to Acacia Lodge will provide our residents with enhanced individual space, including en suite bathrooms, as well as better communal facilities and all important outdoor areas, where they can garden and take part in supervised recreational activities, which have been proven to make a significant difference to people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Some of our residents will share their home with a pet, which can support isolation and loneliness, helping aid recovery – subject to an initial suitability assessment.
“The activities and better facilities on offer will also mean that residents are more focused and less likely to leave their home. The extra space at Acacia Lodge will also give us the opportunity to have more of a multi-agency presence, with room for other partners to work with our customers and provide a holistic joined up approach – a model, which we use with great success across the organisation.”
A Pathways customer, Sue, who is fleeing domestic abuse, has expressed her hopes for the future and what the new accommodation means to her.
“I became homeless due to domestic abuse. My experience of living on the streets was one of fear, looking over my shoulder in case my husband found me. Safety has been a big issue for me and moving to the new accommodation will make me feel more secure - my husband won’t know where the premises are – which makes me feel more confident. I am really looking forward to having an en suite shower and to having a larger and better garden than we have at Pathways, so I can do some gardening, as I enjoy being outside. I’d also like to be involved in group therapies – cooking, arts and crafts – communal activities that get people together and chatting.”
Additional important notes:
- In June, South Somerset District Council unanimously approved the use of £390,000 from the Affordable Housing Capital Programme Reserve to award a grant to Bournemouth Churches Housing Association (BCHA) as a contribution towards the costs of the purchase and refurbishment of a property in Yeovil, as councillors recognised the need to provide emergency accommodation and improved support for people who are homeless, rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping in South Somerset.
- Details of how BCHA will manage Acacia Lodge can be found in the Service Management Plan (under Policies, strategies and charters on the Resources page)