‘Dragons’ Den’ style competition to promote pioneer housing schemes


A pioneering project which could offer people living in hostels the chance to build their own home and a church scheme that helps vulnerably housed women are to pitch for funding to expand in a ‘Dragons’ Den’ style competition to help ease the housing crisis.
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A competition co-run by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community and the Cinnamon Network, the charity providing support for church social action, has shortlisted five projects tackling the housing crisis to bid later this year for grants.

Entries include a scheme from the New Meaning Foundation in Cambridge where people living in hostels can learn practical construction skills by building a ‘microhome’.

The scheme has already provided six microhomes in Cambridge for single people on land leased from Christ the Redeemer Church in Barnwell, Cambridge, with a living area, bedroom and bathroom built to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly.  The 10.7 tonne homes are built away from the site in ‘modules’ and then moved into position.

The project, run in collaboration with Allia UK and Jimmy's Shelter in Cambridge, has brought together different groups in the city and has provided training in construction skills for people living in hostels. 

Project manager, John Evans, from the New Meaning Foundation, said the need for the homes would be even greater when government funding to house and support homeless people during the pandemic comes to an end.

“This provides homeless people with a place they can call home. They are provided with one to one support so they can progress quickly into employment and into permanent accommodation,” he said.

Nick and John in front of their housing project John Evans

St Peter’s Church in Brighton, east Sussex, will pitch for funds to help churches across the country set up projects to support vulnerably housed women.

The church started Safehaven Women a decade ago and now works with more than 100 women a week through weekly drop-in sessions and a mother and baby group. St Peter’s has a group of 80 volunteers who helped provide food and support for 1,000 people living in hostels in the Brighton area at the height of the Covid restrictions.

Sam Coates, founder and Director of Safehaven and senior pastor at St Peter’s, spoke of her hope that Safehaven Women will be able to set up communal housing where volunteers live alongside vulnerable women.

“Our vision is that the houses would provide security and stability and a sense of family life and community for women who might not have had positive family experiences in the past,” she said.

The other shortlisted projects are Hope4All Housing Surgery, London, delivering training on housing issues and Radiant Cleaners, Northampton, which provides jobs and one-to-one support for people who have faced multiple barriers to work, including homelessness. Street Connect, Glasgow, supporting people to achieve recovery from addiction, and tackling associated issues including homelessness and poor mental health, is also shortlisted.

Four builders stand in front of homes John Evans

The Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, vice-chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community, said: “The Commission seeks to enable churches to play their part in responding to the housing crisis while asking the Government and others to work with us to create real change.

“Churches have been involved with housing for centuries. We now need new approaches to meet changing needs. The five Project Lab finalists will act as blueprints to show other churches across the country how they can help people find housing security at this crucial time.”

Mike Royal, Co-Chief Executive of Cinnamon Network said: “In the last few months we’ve all become acutely aware of how important it is to have a safe place to call home. The calibre of this year’s Project Lab finalists is outstanding. I am excited about getting to know the projects and supporting them in their growth and development. Ultimately, we’d love to see these projects be replicated by churches across our nation to the benefit of thousands of individuals.”

The competition is receiving support from Andrews Charitable Trust and the Mercers’ Company.

Sian Edwards, Andrews Charitable Trust Director, said: “Andrews is delighted to back the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Housing Commission with this exciting initiative – highlighting that local churches are bang up to date when it comes to thinking about local housing solutions.  Churches have a history of caring for the homeless, and this set of projects are focused on enabling vulnerable people to create and keep a home.”

Notes to editors

  • The 2020 Cinnamon Project Lab Finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of industry judges on November 9.
  • Two winners will receive a £30,000 development grant each, with up to five places available on the Cinnamon Project 'Incubator' where they will receive support to help them replicate their work for the benefit of communities across the UK.
  • The list of finalists is here:
    • Cambridge PACE, Cambridge - Designing and building micro-homes in Cambridge to serve the homeless needs of the city. The project grew out of the ‘It Takes a City’ homelessness summit in Cambridge held in 2018 that was supported by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
    • Hope4All Housing Surgery, South East London- Delivering training and creating awareness around different housing issues and signposting individuals to relevant support.
    • Radiant Cleaners, Northampton, providing jobs and one-to-one support for people who have faced multiple barriers to work.
    • Safehaven Women, Brighton - Helping women get into positive housing situations by empowering and supporting each woman to overcome her barriers.
    • Street Connect, Glasgow - Supporting people to achieve recovery from addiction, and tackling associated issues including homelessness and poor mental health.
  • For more information or to register your interest, visit the Cinnamon Network website.