Drive launched to uplift homeless families
A $1.3 million drive will be launched to provide a life-changing facility for homeless families, and everyone on the island was asked to get involved.
It was hoped schools, community groups, businesses and builders would be among those to back the campaign to create a Transformational Living Centre that will offer women and their children a hand up, rather than just a handout.
A plan developed by Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda and the Women’s Resource Centre would result in the former Pembroke Rest Home being turned into a safe space that can cater for ten families, who would live there for up to a year while they access programmes and services to help them move on.
It came after a think-tank of 18 charities and government agencies identified last April, the significant scale of homelessness among mothers and children, as well as an urgent need to tackle the problem. A steering committee that included people directly affected by the issue has met over the past 12 months and led to the idea of a TLC that will offer not only housing, but also counselling, rehabilitation, education, training and other services.
Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda who also founded the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said: “In my experience it was clear to me that one of the fundamental issues facing a part of the population that is the most vulnerable in our community is housing, the adequacy and cost of housing, so Habitat is focused on serving that need through restoring homes, restoring communities and restoring hope.
“Our combined vision of the Transformational Living Centre for families is all part of that long-term goal that we’re collaboratively working towards.”
Elaine Butterfield, the WRC executive director, added: “While the TLC will address the housing needs of as many as ten families, our goal is to provide much more than just housing.
“While Habitat for Humanity will lead the way in the renovation of the building, the programmes that seek to transform lives will be spearheaded by the Women’s Resource Centre.
“The transformational programme is a combination of targeted support services and partner networking co-ordinated by the Women’s Resource Centre, to develop and promote self-sufficiency in the lives of disadvantaged women and their families.”
She explained that components will include a needs assessment, life skills, employability and academic training as well as follow-up support.
Ms Butterfield added: “The objective of the programme is that participants will have the skills and support they need to become economically self-sufficient and contributing citizens.”
The total cost of renovations to the former rest home, which is owned by the Pembroke Parish Council, was estimated at a little more than $1.3 million.
However, the charity leaders hoped that figure can be slashed through the donation of construction materials, like windows, doors and flooring, and voluntary skilled labour, such as electricians, plumbers, masons and decorators.
They encouraged community groups, schools and individuals to hold fundraising events and said that corporate and personal donors will be recognised in various ways at the facility.
As the renovations will be carried out in phases, furnishings like curtains are not needed at this time.
Ms Cooper said: “We’re calling this a community campaign because we believe that there is enough talent and commitment in Bermuda to substantially reduce the cost.
“We are reaching out to people of all walks of life, all talent and all expertise to come together to really be part of something very special.”
A number of fundraising initiatives will be held by the charities themselves, including a telethon scheduled for late September.
It is hoped that the TLC will be self-sustaining and the team is working with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and entrepreneurs to develop projects or ideas, like a bakery or coffee shop, that can support operating costs while also providing learning and work experiences for its residents.
The charities thanked the Pembroke Parish Council for its “generosity and willingness to provide access to their amazingly beautiful” building.
In a joint statement, Ms Cooper and Ms Butterfield said: “After having canvassed many properties and locations around Bermuda, we believe that the Pembroke property is ideally suited to be transformed into a safe, secure and welcoming shelter for some of our most vulnerable families.
“The beautiful grounds, the proximity to schools and playgrounds, and the closeness to Hamilton all contribute to making this location ideal for families.
“We are hugely indebted to the Pembroke Parish Council for their support and patience throughout our negotiations.”
Residents in the surrounding neighbourhood will have opportunities to take part in the programmes offered at the facility.
The pair added: “We want to honour the fact that this is truly a Pembroke Parish asset and as such will continue to serve the needs of the area.”
Patricka Ferguson, the council chairwoman, said: “Each parish has a council and they were created to help those within the community who could not help themselves.
“Pembroke Parish Council believes that the potential of this venture will do just that for those in our community.”