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Charity to switch focus to helping families living in unsafe, derelict homes

Front row, from left: Sandra Warner, Paige Little, Sheelagh Cooper and Akilah Swan. Back row, from left: Jim Butterfield, Ed Fox, Hewvonnie Brown, Barbara Belton-Brown, Buddy Rego and William Cooper

A charity that renovates unsafe homes for families will tackle a backlog of cases after it completed a major project to provide housing for mothers and their children.

But Sheelagh Cooper, the chairwoman at Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda, said that another large-scale renovation could be lined up for future work.

The charity undertook the design and renovation of a Pembroke building to turn it into the Transformational Living Centre for Families, which opened in February.

Ms Cooper explained: “Our commitment to this project was all-consuming.

“It was so all-consuming that we had to put on hold a significant number of individual home projects.

“So, our focus for the next six months is to complete that backlog of unsafe or derelict properties inhabited by families who cannot afford the cost of renovation.”

She added: “Since Habitat’s inception in the year 2000, they have completed more than 100 of those smaller, yet very much appreciated, individual renovations.

“Going forward, once we have completed the backlog of smaller projects, our objective is to tackle another larger project that may be available to accommodate a similar but perhaps more eclectic group of housing insecure populations.

“At this point we have been offered two possible opportunities, and we are still open to considering others.

“There is no question that the capacity exists within our community to house everyone in safe, secure and affordable accommodation, and we are committed to playing our part to make sure that happens.”

The TLC for Families was spearheaded by Habitat for Humanity of Bermuda and the Women’s Resource Centre, which piloted a Transformational Support Services Programme that is now run at the Pembroke home.

It provides secure housing for mothers and their children for up to a year, where the courses are designed with the goal of achieving self-sufficiency

Ms Cooper, who also founded the Coalition for the Protection of Children and was with the organisation for 25 years, said: “We are incredibly proud of our finished product at the Transformational Living Centre for Families, and it is so heart-warming to see that the hard work and dedication of so many workers and volunteers has meant that families now have a secure place to lay their heads and begin to heal from the trauma of homelessness.

“Because of the massive community and local supplier support, the project was completed almost 40 per cent under budget — pretty amazing when you consider it involved the complete replumbing and rewiring of the building, the creation of 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a state-of-the-art security system, solar panels, all new windows and doors and even included all industrial appliances, beds, right down to the bed linens.

“In addition to the community and corporate support, we are fortunate to have a very talented and very much hands-on board, with three project managers, three architects, two lawyers, an accountant, a former Habitat partner family member and an administrator who was the glue that held it all together.

“The project is now operated by the Women’s Resource Centre, and although Habitat has moved on, our ReStore on Front Street has committed to allocate a minimum of $10,000 per year to assist with the ongoing maintenance of the property.”

Ms Cooper added: “For my part, however, I will remain on the management committee, as this has been a dream of mine since my days at the Coalition, watching children being removed and placed in foster care, simply because the family was homeless.

“This facility will ensure that this will never happen to a family again.”

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Published April 08, 2022 at 7:48 am (Updated April 08, 2022 at 7:48 am)

Charity to switch focus to helping families living in unsafe, derelict homes

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