Former community hall transformed into homes for homeless people

A former community hall in Whitehill & Bordon has been transformed into a safe haven for homeless people thanks to an innovative partnership between East Hampshire District Council, a housing manufacturer and a local charity.

Pinewood Village Hall, on Rydal Close, has been fitted with ten individual ‘pods’ to serve as much-needed temporary accommodation for people without a home of their own.

The pioneering, sustainable design has been delivered by construction company Velocity RDT, which designs and manufactures affordable, technologically advanced temporary housing.

Each pod is furnished and kitted out with its own kitchen and living facilities, offering a safe place to stay to those who have nowhere to else to go. The development will be managed and supervised by homelessness charity Two Saints.

Velocity RDT approached EHDC with a concept that could provide an affordable solution for temporary homelessness while simultaneously maximising the under-used hall.

Now called Pinewood Lodge, the facility will be the UK’s first housing project to repurpose a redundant community building by constructing self-contained dwellings inside it.

Modular housing is becoming more widespread as a temporary solution to homelessness, but by using existing buildings to house the units, the Pinewood project also solves issues such as lack of available land and the under-use of community buildings.

“The pods are brilliantly-designed, safe, private and environmentally-friendly. They will give people secure and supervised accommodation at a time when they need it most of all.

Cllr Julie Butler, EHDC’s Portfolio Holder Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Welfare, Housing & Community and Neighbourhood Quality Portfolio, said:

“This is a clever and innovative way of tackling homelessness in East Hampshire and helping some of our most vulnerable residents.

“This scheme also makes fantastic use of a community building that no longer serves a purpose. I am thrilled to see the pods complete but most of all I am looking forward to seeing them help people who have either fallen into, or are threatened by, homelessness.”

East Hampshire District Council’s housing options team will refer people who have become homeless to Pinewood Lodge for a temporary period while working with Two Saints to find them suitable long-term accommodation.

This avoids placing people in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation, often a long way out of East Hampshire, and gives residents direct access to support, as there are staff on site. The site will provide a stepping stone to more settled accommodation, and help residents to gain the skills necessary to manage a tenancy.

Simon Poyser, CEO and Founder of Velocity RDT and HAAUUSS said:

“We wanted to use our skills and technology to provide temporary housing of real quality, giving people a comfortable home where they can find stability and have some space to rebuild their lives, behind their own front doors.

Watch a video on how the pods were made

“We came up with the idea for Pinewood Lodge as a solution to both the under-utilisation of many public buildings and the lack of available, high quality accommodation, and created a collection of advanced, smart, connected buildings within a building.

“The pods are unique as they incorporate many cutting-edge technological innovations as well as environmentally-friendly features, providing homes that are not only functional but comfortable and make use of the very latest design features to offer the temporary residents a really comfortable quality of life for the duration of their stay.

“When we commissioned research into homelessness, we were struck by the extent of the problem across the country. We want to continue to make an impact in helping local authorities address the housing crisis, and hope to create many more projects such as this one.”

Unlike many other modular homes, the Pinewood Pods also have a range of unique, technologically-advanced features. They incorporate state-of-the-art sensors which monitor movement, air quality, sound levels and building quality, and feed the data back to the housing association so they can monitor the residences in real time. The sensors can detect problems such as faults in pipes before any ruptures happen, allowing for proactive maintenance, which is more cost-effective than repairs. Intelligent sensor-controlled LED lighting and QR codes on household equipment bring up instruction manuals in a number of languages.

The Pods are environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient, with solar panels generating 15kw of energy each day, smart heating, excellent insulation and sedum grass roofs, which remove CO2 from the environment.

Each unit is furnished, fitted with a kitchen and en-suite bathroom, and equipped with WiFi.  Appliances such as televisions, and microwaves are supplied, as well as items such as furniture and bedding. The idea is that residents won’t need to purchase anything as they are likely to be on a low income, but there will be plenty of space for personal items, so that they can make it their own for the duration of their stay.

Steve Benson, chief executive officer, Two Saints, said:

“We have a long-standing relationship with East Hampshire District Council and we’re delighted to partner with them in providing support for this project.

“Repurposing the Whitehill & Bordon village hall is an excellent idea as it provides people who are homeless with much-needed accommodation and support while also making use of an otherwise empty community building, solving two issues in one.”

Pinewood Pods provide perfect solution to homelessness