An historic building that’s been supporting homeless people in Cambridge since the 1800s has been given a £1million makeover.
Willow Walk was officially re-opened yesterday after being transformed into a modern, welcoming space for residents to enjoy.
Run by housing association Riverside, it helps rough sleepers, providing accommodation and support for men and women aged 18-65 affected by homelessness.
Renovation work to the interior of the Grade I and Grade II-listed building has included refurbishing the 20-bedrooms, with en-suite in six rooms; creating a new lounge and computer suite; and a new open reception area.
Plumbing, electrics and heating have also been renewed throughout the building, which continued to operate while work was carried out.
To celebrate, Willow Walk opened its doors on Wednesday, July 12 to welcome residents past and present, councillors and other guests who were given a tour of the new-look facilities.
Riverside Service Manager Laurel Struthers, who has worked at Willow Walk for more than two years, said: “The interior looks fantastic and the rooms are so much better. They’re great spaces to offer someone who has been living on the streets, and having somewhere modern and bright to stay really helps people’s self-esteem.
“We’re really pleased with the investment in the building and we’ve already had some really positive feedback.”
Willow Walk was built in 1817, and has been helping to transform the lives of rough sleepers since 1874.
One of the key elements of Willow Walk’s success is Riverside’s Psychologically Informed Environments (PIEs), which help customers to increase their self-esteem, belief and hope, so they receive support for longer and achieve their goals.
Laurel added: “The lounge area is much better and is now linked to the garden. The reception area is completely transformed – it’s more welcoming and inviting to residents which is line with the PIEs approach that we use. Feedback I’ve had from everyone is really good, and residents chose the colour scheme throughout the building.
“The day has been really enjoyable and it’s been great catching up with past residents who have successfully moved on and are now living in their own accommodation.
“Throughout the building’s 200-year existence it has always served as a place for the homeless, so we hope this transformation provides a safe and welcoming environment and continues to support many more people for the next few hundred years.”
The renovation was made possible with funding from Riverside, Cambridge City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Our partnership with Riverside is key in the work done to help rough sleepers change their lives for the better, and the wonderful renovation works will also provide a great environment for all the clients.”
Riverside is the third largest provider of homelessness services in the country, and its Care and Support operation works with over 16,000 customers every year.
To find out more about our supported housing services visit: www.riverside.org.uk/care-and-support/supported-living.