A former community hall in Whitehill and Bordon has been turned into a safe haven for homeless people thanks to a first-of-its-kind innovative £730,000 transformation led by East Hampshire District Council.
The conversion of Pinewood village hall in Rydal Close was the result of a partnership between the council, a housing manufacturer and a local charity.
The project saw the disused hall fitted with ten temporary accommodation ‘pods’ for people without a home of their own.
Now called Pinewood Lodge, it is the first redundant community building in the UK to have been re-purposed by constructing self-contained dwellings inside it.
The pioneering, sustainable design was delivered by Velocity RDT of Four Marks near Alton, which supplies affordable, technologically-advanced temporary housing.
Each pod is furnished and kitted out with a kitchen and living facilities, and will be managed and supervised by a support worker from homelessness charity Two Saints.
The hall for the homeless was the brainchild of Simon Poyser of Velocity RDT who approached the council offering to turn it into an affordable solution for temporary homelessness.
The CEO and founder of Velocity RDT and HAAUUSS said: “We wanted to use our skills and technology to provide temporary housing of real quality, giving people a comfortable home where they can find stability and have some space to rebuild their lives, behind their own front doors.
“We came up with the idea for Pinewood Lodge as a solution to both the under-utilisation of many public buildings and the lack of available, high quality accommodation, and created a collection of advanced, smart, IT-connected ‘pods’ within a building.
“They are unique as they incorporate many cutting-edge technological innovations as well as environmentally- friendly features.
“This means they are not only functional but comfortable and make use of the very latest design features offering temporary residents a really comfortable quality of life during their stay.”
Modular housing is becoming more widespread as a temporary solution to homelessness, and the Pinewood project also solves issues such as lack of available land and the under use of community buildings.
Council deputy leader Cllr Julie Butler said: “This is a clever and innovative way of tackling homelessness in East Hampshire and helping some of our most vulnerable residents.
“The pods are brilliantly designed, safe, private and environmentally friendly. They will give people secure and supervised accommodation at a time when they need it most of all.
“This scheme also makes fantastic use of a community building that no longer serves a purpose, and I am looking forward to seeing them help people who have either fallen into, or are threatened by, homelessness.”
East Hampshire District Council’s housing options team will refer people who have become homeless to Pinewood Lodge for a temporary period while working with Two Saints to find them suitable long-term accommodation.
This avoids placing people in expensive bed-and-breakfast accommodation, often a long way from East Hampshire and gives residents direct access to support, as there are staff on site.
The site will provide a stepping stone to more settled accommodation, and the Two Saints support worker will help residents gain skills necessary to manage a tenancy.
Two Saints chief executive officer Steve Benson said: “We have a long-standing relationship with the district council and we’re delighted to partner with them in providing support for this project.
“Repurposing Pinewood village hall is an excellent idea as it provides people who are homeless with much-needed accommodation and support while also making use of an otherwise empty community building, solving two issues in one.”