A group of West Midlands-based building and construction firms have been the first to commit to a new scheme that will help support the city’s homeless off the streets. The initiative will provide pathways out of rough sleeping for individuals, through a strength-based mentoring programme to secure employment and permanent accommodation.

Six firms have signed up to the initiative at Tabor House, an accommodation project based in Digbeth, sponsoring a bed for a year. Concrete supplier BS Eaton, civil engineering firms Friel Construction and M. Lambe Construction, and specialist commercial glaziers Nash Glass, have been joined by building supply firms EH Smith and Tippers to pioneer this new scheme.

The £5,000 donated by the firms helps cover the running costs of one bed at Tabor House for a year, including 24-hour accommodation for someone referred off the streets, daily meals and essential supplies. In addition to a one-to-one mentoring programme to help them secure employment, as well as housing and benefits support.

Michael Lambe, Managing Director of M. Lambe Construction, one of the donors, comments:

“As a family-run business, we have built a reputation around being a workplace that enhances people’s lives. This is seen through everything that we do, including our close links with the community around us. The past few years has seen homelessness rise in the region and we wanted to do something that went beyond a charity donation; being part of the solution to getting more people off the streets.

The work of Tabor House and their dedication to helping people into independent living is inspiring, so I’m so happy to be one of the first firms to sign up to their new Sponsor-A-Bed initiative. We know that our money will go towards directly helping individuals who stay at Tabor House, providing them with the support they need to move into a more secure and independent way of life.”

Tabor House, which is run by iShelter in partnership with Father Hudson’s Care, transformed its open plan living area into Perspex ‘pods’ in line with Covid-19 guidance and can now house up to eight guests at any one time. Since opening in 2017, the Digbeth-based facility has welcomed 70 guests and seen more than 35 move into both employment and permanent accommodation.

Sharon Fear, Project Manager for Tabor House, comments:

“At first, the pandemic had some unexpected benefits for the rough sleeping community, with emergency funding helping get people into accommodation with a matter of days. With this funding running out, there’s an immediate need for people who will return to the streets and face the winter months without support. The cancellation of Christmas shelters, as a result of Covid-19, add further pressure to the city’s homeless services.

“At Tabor House, we continue our work in supporting people referred to us, giving tailored support to help with everything from health and wellbeing, to housing and employment. The support we’ve had from these six firms covers the cost of one bed for a year, which is so crucial, especially given the financial pressures that our charity is under. Whilst it’s difficult for everyone, there’s a stark reality facing our homeless community, so our Sponsor-A-Bed initiative gives firms a way to contribute in a tangible way. Thank you for the support so far and I hope more organisations are able to help us too.”

Social distancing measures saw the reduction of Tabor House’s capacity from 11 to eight, with enhanced health and safety measures adding pressure to the team. Funding helped the construction of Perspex pods and a reduced volunteer and staffing level has enabled it to move from overnight accommodation to a 24-hour facility.

iShelter is also preparing to open Caretaker’s House, which will be a move-on facility for guests. In the short-term, it will allow people referred to the service to move safely from the street into a private room for two weeks before joining Tabor House.

There is a concern that homelessness could rise significantly in the coming months in the face of significant economic uncertainty. If you would like to support Tabor House and its Sponsor-A-Bed initiative, please visit www.ishelter.org.uk.