Growing Lives cultivates new measures to allow former homeless to return

Published on: Thursday, 30th July 2020

An Ilkeston community project that helps former homeless people learn new skills and begin to rebuild their lives has opened its doors again after being forced to close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Growing Lives, based in Grenville Drive, Cotmanhay, has put in place a series of measures to ensure good hygiene and social distancing which will allow the 50 people who use the service to return on a rota basis.

The project is run by Derby social landlord Derventio Housing Trust and invites people who have experienced homelessness or other challenges to work alongside others and learn new skills, such as gardening, woodwork or cooking.

During lockdown, staff maintained regular contact with the people who go to Growing Lives, many of whom are overcoming issues such as drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence and mental health problems.

The mentoring they receive from staff and the boost in self-esteem they get from learning a new skill or hobby can be a lifeline for participants.  During the period of lockdown tutors delivered craft packs, quizzes, easy recipe ideas and organised activities such as a treasure hunt around Ilkeston in a bid to prevent them from feeling too isolated.

Now they are inviting people back to access the garden, workshop and community areas of the former factory.

Kim Miles, head of service, support and activities at Growing Lives, said: “We can normally cater for 12 people every day but in order to find the balance between allowing people to access the service and ensuring everyone’s safety we are operating a rota basis where two people can use our facilities each day.

“We are identifying those people who are most vulnerable from isolation and inviting them back in first, and also organising socially distanced walks so that participants can still meet up with other people and have some interaction as well as be outdoors.

“Inside, workshop tools will not be shared and individuals will have their own seat.  We’ve put lots of handwashing reminders up and have wipes and sterilising equipment available too.  It’s procedures like these we’ve developed to ensure the safety of everyone at Growing Lives.

“We have beautiful gardens so participants can still access them, if only we could rely on the weather.  The environment is designed to be relaxing for users, so we need attendees to feel safe.”

Derventio Housing Trust, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, operates 600 beds worth of private accommodation in premises across Derbyshire, Midlands and the South West and runs a whole series of projects designed to help the people it works with to get their lives back on track.

If anyone would like to support Growing Lives during this challenging time, they can make a quick and easy online donation at www.localgiving.com/derventio

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