Cornwall homeless charity takes innovative action on fire safety

Residents at one of Cornwall’s leading homeless charities are benefitting from an innovative project in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

With Grenfell still fresh in the public consciousness, Harbour Housing, which houses more than 60 people in five properties, decided to update sprinklers in all its properties to provide the highest level of safety to residents, only to find that the company they had been using no longer existed.

So the award-winning supported accommodation provider saw this as a development opportunity for staff and residents that they support and decided to train them to carry out the work in-house.

Already six residents and four of the charity’s maintenance team have received the British Standard qualification in servicing and installing sprinkler systems.

So now all maintenance at Harbour properties is completed by the team and they have been increasingly contracted by outside businesses, recently embarking on a new installation project for five luxury apartments in Newquay.

Malcolm Putko, operations director for Harbour, said he is pleased with the success the scheme has had so far and praised the residents involved in the programme.

He said:

“It’s great to see people developing their potential and utilising skills they already had within them.

“Recovering from homelessness isn’t easy. We are proud of their achievements, the resilience they have had to develop has really shone through in this new venture and their attention to detail is second to none.

“This is only the beginning – the work is skilled and so provides residents the opportunity to earn an income higher than the minimum wage and not have to rely on the benefits system.

“The eventual goal is to help them to become self-employed and use their qualification to move on with their lives.”

Providing residents with practical skills and experience can help to end the cycle of homelessness and goes a long way to improving their confidence and independence.

If England follows in the footsteps of Wales with their new policy on domestic fire safety, then this qualification is likely to be in high demand.

At a more local level, Cornwall Council has announced that sprinklers will be installed in all of their new homes.

John, a resident who has previous experience in the building trade, said:

“I walked onto the building site and it felt like I’d never been away, I enjoyed getting to use the skills again.

“It’s really valuable to have a qualification, especially one like this. It helps you put your foot in the door.”

Paul, another resident who is now qualified, said:

“I’m really glad I decided to do the programme; it has given me an opportunity to move forward in life.

“It’s given me an extra qualification, a skill that I didn’t have before, which in the modern world is very necessary – especially after the Grenfell tragedy.

“It highlighted the need for more rigorous safety in every living accommodation.

“Everything’s a learning experience and it’s a chance to progress and hopefully move forward with employment possibilities.”