EIGHTY-FIVE years ago, the crypt of St George’s, Leeds, was opened to men hit hard by the Depression and in need of food and clothing. In August, the charity that has continued this work with the homeless launched a company that will provide today’s clients with a home of their own.
Already, there are plans for St George’s Crypt Development Company to build 20 homes on a site next to St Hilda’s, Cross Green, and to expand a hostel on Regent Terrace, in Headingley, that offers accommodation to men dependent on alcohol.
The new legal entity has been established to ringfence work on building projects, and protect the charity’s assets. For the St Hilda’s project, it is hoped that 30 per cent of the cost can be secured from Leeds City Council, supplemented by grants from charitable trusts, and a commercial loan. Funding from the Homes and Communities Agency may be available for the hostel project.
There are clear advantages to developing accommodation as opposed to relying on private landlords, the projects director of St George’s Crypt, Martin Patterson, said last month. “Very often, we are not able to support the people as well as we might like, and they fall off the wagon,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to provide ongoing support, and particularly training and engagement: a key part of what the Crypt does in building people’s lives back. If you have ongoing practical support and engagement and accommodation, the chance of people sustaining a tenancy is greatly enhanced.”
The board of the company includes people with “extensive business experience in property and development”, including an architect and a surveyor. They will be responding to “an uncertain world”, Mr Patterson said, given changes to housing-benefit eligibility, cuts in rents for social housing, and the expansion of the right to buy.
Numbers requiring help remained “steady” he said, but the complexity of their situations had grown. The charity is increasingly dealing with people who have been discharged from the NHS but with nowhere to go.
He hopes that, after St Hilda’s, more churches will work alongside the new company, “to make a real difference to homeless . . . people”.