Homeless hostel gets £5m makeover

For more than a century Mildmay House in Liverpool has been a hostel. It's served different clients with different needs in a rapidly changing world. On 27 November Bishop Paul attended its official re-opening after its latest makeover as a state of the art facility for Merseyside's homeless people.

Mildmay is owned and managed by national housing charity, Chapter 1. Chief Executive Geoff Hawkins said: 'Our investment in Mildmay House in Liverpool reflects our proud association with the city, and our on-going commitment to provide a home and support for people facing homelessness.

'At Chapter 1 we believe in changing lives one by one. We treat our clients as individuals with individual needs, and we know that for all of them to have a place to call home can be the first step towards moving on in their lives.

'Mildmay House can offer them a comfortable, modern home. Most importantly it offers care and support including training and activities to help all our clients gain the personal confidence and life skills they need to live independently in the community.'

The refurbishment reflected Chapter 1's commitment to changing lives. Around 20 former clients have benefitted from training opportunities and work experience on the site, and six have secured paid jobs.

One of those to benefit is Omar. He explained: 'I lived at Mildmay for two years. They helped me get my badge to work in security, but I still couldn't get a job because I had no experience. Then Chapter 1 gave me the chance to work here as full-time night security. I've worked all through the refurbishment and now I've got the experience to get further work, thanks to Chapter 1.'

The Mildmay story

Founded by the YWCA in 1883 and known originally as Gordon Hall, the building began as a training centre for deaconesses. Later it became a hostel for women working in the area. In the 1970s it underwent a major refurbishment and by the turn of the century it was a hostel for single men facing homelessness. In 2014 it will once again be able to accommodate both men and women.

The original cost was just £8000. The upgrade in the 1970s cost £180K.The total budget for the latest refurbishment was £5m with £1.5m coming from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Homeless Change Programme, and the balance from Chapter 1.

Deborah McLaughlin, the HCA's Executive Director for the North West, said: 'I am proud that our Homelessness Change Programme supports projects such as Mildmay House. Schemes such as these offer vital stability to the lives of vulnerable people.'

The building was officially re-opened on 27 November by Helen Maude, who was instrumental in the previous refurbishment 40 years ago. She said: 'Back then it was an uphill struggle. There was quite a bit of doubt and even suggestions of closing the hostel down, but we believed we had a God-given opportunity and we shouldn't waste it.

'I still believe what I believed then. I'm glad that Chapter 1 has maintained its Christian ethos, and that Mildmay's work has kept up with current needs and changing times. It's a privilege to have been asked to open the re-development.'

The refurbishment

The rebuilding began in 2013. The building is now fully accessible with a mix of accommodation to meet the needs of clients with a history of rough sleeping, and those who are ready to live more independently. There is a training space, music room, and communal areas for social activities.