Cambridge homeless services’ innovative work to help rebuild lives

Housing and support services in Cambridge have been praised for helping to transform the lives of homeless people….by using psychology and gardening.

The Victoria Project and The Springs, based on Victoria Road, are run by housing association Riverside and provide accommodation and support to homeless adults.

They also run an innovative gardening project for residents to boost their health and wellbeing, grow their own vegetables and enjoy life outdoors.

A core element of the project’s success is Riverside’s Psychologically Informed Environments and Services (PIES), which helps customers to increase their self-esteem, belief and hope, so they receive support for longer and achieve their goals.

One year anniversary of the gardening project at The Victoria Project and The Springs in Cambridge, ran by Riverside

Former resident of The Springs, Elaine Downes, 38, explained: “When I came to The Springs I had some major problems in my life. I had left my job and had nowhere to turn – I had hit rock bottom.

“The Springs was there for me, and in particular taking part in the gardening project was brilliant. I felt that I was part of a team and doing something so creative was great. My self-confidence returned and I was back on my feet again. As a result I’ve moved on and have my own tenancy, and my life is back on track.”

Jay Butcher, Service Manager at The Victoria Project, added: “Due to a range of factors, including spiralling house prices, homelessness is a massive issue locally and rough sleeper counts have been steadily increasing.

“Riverside has worked hard to transform both The Victoria Project and The Springs, and as a result we are able to transform the lives of local people who end up on the streets.

“Our approach of using peer support and mentoring, as well as goal setting makes a real difference. In addition, working on community projects such as the gardening project gives our residents’ lives meaning and purpose – which in turn develops self-respect.”

Both schemes are recognised as a much-needed resource in the city, with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner giving the seal of approval when he visited recently.

He said: “The Victoria Project is doing a great job in very difficult circumstances, we know from the most recent data that homelessness has been on the rise for the last five years across Britain; with national cuts to benefits and local services compounding the issue.

“We are lucky in Cambridge to have recently secured a record amount of funding for homelessness services, and to have a wide array of projects and staff working closely with those seeking to turn their lives around. Projects like this aim to empower people and give routine and support when and where it is needed – they are helping to change lives for the better.”

To find out more, you can visit our supported housing services pages.