DIY SOS Comes to Lancashire

2019 Children in Need's Big Build has come to Blackburn and has almost completed works to convert a parish hall into a fabulous facility for young people who have been homeless and need supported living.

‘Well, we’ll just have to pray then,’ said Rev Sheelagh, Vicar of St Silas Blackburn, to Gill Beeley, from Together Lancashire. Gill had worked with Nightsafe and St Silas as part of the team developing a plan for the Parish Hall; we had just heard that the second bid Gill had written for funding to draft plans had been turned down. The partnership between Nightsafe and St Silas had been strengthening over the years, but the proposed development took this relationship to a different level.

And then prayers were answered! The BBC Children in Need Big Build was looking for a project in the north of England, and Nightsafe was a well regarded recipient of funds in previous years. The number of hoops to jump through before the DIY SOS team decided that Blackburn was the project were many and challenging, but in the end we were so excited to be told the St Silas/NIghtsafe building had been chosen.

Nightsafe is a long established charity for homeless young people, having an emergency shelter and support facilities in Blackburn town centre, and other supported housing across the borough. The Chief Executive, Jan Larkin, said, ‘we desperately need to have more accommodation to assist young people into independent living, and this project will provide 9 places’. St Silas could have sold the building to generate funds for church reordering, but took the brave step to seek to develop their hall, putting social action at the heart of the gospel.

Fingers crossed that the building work will be completed next week for the Big Reveal! Gill is proud to be part of the team which has driven the project, and will continue to work with St Silas and Nightsafe to tackle homelessness in young people in the borough and beyond. As well as working on resourcing the project, Gill has brought expertise in framing the collaboration, and ensuring all the partners think through the longer term aspects of the project. Together Lancashire has particularly focussed on responses to child poverty; in Blackburn with Darwen over a quarter of children live in poverty. Shameful.

‘Child poverty takes many forms,’ said Gill. ‘We need to do all we can to provide care and support for those who need it most. Prayers will be answered, and God is definitely in this project.’

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One volunteer involved said this of the project:

“This project has proven that a positive mindset, passion and persistence can truly motivate people to achieve the unimaginable.

It was extraordinary to see a collection of people who live hundreds of miles apart sacrificing work, time with their families and pay to be part of something bigger.

I have never truly felt community spirit like this. You can see it. You can feel it. Everyone was there for the same reason – not to get on TV, but to help those less fortunate than themselves.”