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Posted on 3 April 2020

Local partnerships rising to challenge to ‘get everyone in’

Following the government’s recent call for at risk groups to be housed as a matter of urgency, The Calico Group has pulled together to deliver additional accommodation for individuals in the Burnley borough. Several empty homes are being repurposed to provide housing for vulnerable individuals requiring a safe space to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than a dozen empty properties are being repurposed to provide housing for vulnerable individuals requiring a safe space to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include several refurbished as part of The Empty Homes Programme, formed in 2017 by the Group and Burnley Borough council, which renovates empty houses before making them available for affordable rent.

One service benefitting from the repurposed accommodation is Gateway Burnley, an award-winning homelessness project providing essential support for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The ongoing pandemic poses a unique and serious threat to rough sleepers in the Burnley Borough. With limited access to safe refuges, individuals experiencing homelessness or forced to sleep rough are struggling to self-isolate or adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Gateway is working to meet these unique challenges and provide additional support for rough sleepers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

The empty homes will offer essential accommodation and form part of a wider drive to expand Gateway’s capacity during this crisis. Meeting rooms at the project have also been repurposed to provide safe spaces for those looking to self-isolate. An individual already benefitting from this extra provision commented, “It’s helped me get off the streets and put a roof over my head – I have made new friends and hope to get my own place soon”.

Several vacant properties will also be made available to Safenet Domestic Abuse Services, a support network providing safe refuge for victims of domestic abuse across the North West.

The additional accommodation comes as chief executive of The National Centre for Domestic Violence Mark Groves warns, “While the whole country grapples with the consequences of Covid-19, there are huge dangers lurking for victims of domestic abuse and violence”. These lurking dangers are seemingly surfacing as Beverley Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing and crime suggests, “I think we are beginning to see a rise in domestic abuse incidents”.

The newly repurposed homes will provide additional safe refuges for those looking to escape domestic abuse or individuals looking to access ‘move on’ accommodation through Safenet.

“Sadly, we are anticipating a sharp rise in referrals to our domestic abuse support service, with statistics already showing an increase in DA incidents across the world during the COVID-19 outbreak. We have refuges and safe houses across Lancashire, however, the Empty Homes Scheme will allow even more capacity for us to be able to expand our services and support more people and families who desperately need our help during this critical time”.

Helen Gauder, Managing Director at SafeNet Domestic Abuse and Support Services

The formerly empty properties, let by Calico Homes, have been renovated to a high standard throughout by Ringstones Maintenance and Construction. The Group were supported by local business Carpet Market Burnley who generously offered their services, providing new carpets throughout each home. A number of home comforts were kindly donated by Blackpool-based charity Furniture Matters.

As this complex situation develops, The Group will continue to draw services together and explore creative solutions to guarantee the safety of vulnerable individuals in the community.

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