The first of the new workhouses?


The new workhouse: A former bus depot in Blackburn is set to be changed into a Victorian-style workhouse, providing accommodation for up to 10 homeless people in return for work.

Following a discussion on Twitter yesterday evening, the following article from the Lancashire Telegraph was pointed out. Is this building in Blackburn the first of the Coalition government’s new workhouses?

THE semi-derelict former Transdev/Lancashire United bus depot in Blackburn town centre could be brought back into life as a charity and recycling centre, writes Bill Jacobs.

Up 10 otherwise homeless people would live at the site under supervision.

The garage in Manner Sutton Street in Eanam closed in 2011.

It was bought by Blackburn with Darwen Council and now the borough is poised to sell it to a Lancashire-based charity which helps ‘marginalised people back into stable, independent living’.

The charity’s associated social enterprise will run the site as a recycling centre for items such as metal, scrap cars, tyres, plastics, TVs and redundant household items for sale.

The money raised from the recycling operation will help provide the homeless and others on the margins of society with training, education, work experience and employment.

It will also provide accommodation for up to 10 workers who would otherwise be homeless or itinerant.

Read the rest of the article on the Lancashire Telegraph‘s site.

The dictionary definition of ‘workhouse’ is “a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment”. It is always defined in historical terms, as something that no longer exists.

But doesn’t that description fit the proposed new use of the Blackburn bus depot?

We live in dark times.

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71 thoughts on “The first of the new workhouses?

    1. Gaz

      I subscribe to this channel, great honestly.

      Its all in the name. VOX POLITICAL.

      Really though, this story is just scaremongering and leaping at shadows.

      A CHARITY is buying a derelict building and turning their efforts towards helping people take the first step towards independent living.

      I have been homeless in the past. I know that without this kind of support network, both religious and secular, I might well of ended up dead.

      Google ‘EMMAUS’. Exactly the same setup as suggested…nothing sinister or weird going on… decide.


      Gaz (Another flippin’ angry voice)

      1. AJ

        Gaz you are being very naive this nearly always leads to exploitation. Other so called charities are exploiting the mentally ill through workfare at this very moment.

      2. Techno

        I agree with Gaz. I gave this blog a chance after it turned up in my searches as having never heard of Mr Sivier he nonetheless seemed like a reasonable person for a while, but this kind of exaggeration does no favours for anybody.

        I will probably be unsubscribing soon.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        What exaggeration? The article makes it perfectly clear that the Lancashire Telegraph story was presented to me as an example of a modern-day workhouse, and presents a definition of the old-style workhouses to provide a comparison. How is that exaggeration?
        Also, rather than simply leave (although admittedly having announced it to the world first), why not try presenting a reasoned argument of your own? Other people have, and have received space to do so. I am a reasonable person. Let’s have your reasons for disagreeing with me.

      4. Ulysses

        As someone else from a homeless hostel, I can categorically state your experience and attitude is the polar opposite of mine and every other long term “guest” of such places that I had personal contact with. You start off very grateful as you’re off the streets with a bed and your own room, but within weeks this turns into anger and disgust when the housing benefit statement rolls up. If they can find nigh on £400 p/w to give to these poverty pimp charities, why was the £80 odd per week to keep you in your own home denied?

      5. Pedro

        Hi Gaz, Against a benevolent background of choice, support and access to nice things for people who both have jobs and don’t have jobs. I could understand that a “residential training facility” could be seen as a positive thing.

        However the current milieu is toxic for anyone who has vulnerabilities and is growing in toxicity and people are being driven into homelessness and desperation,meanwhile paradoxically some charities and other hedge-funds are working alongside each other and making vast sums of money by screwing the vulnerable over.

        Any supervised residential training/working environment in this currently sickening phase of our country’s descent into madness has to be viewed as a dangerous idea and must be resisted because it is just the beginning of a roll out that will be on par with 30’s Germany and Stalinist work camps.

        These things have to be brought in gradually fool the majority of people into thinking that they have good intentions. Then the nightmare unfolds and people wonder 10 yrs down the line how we ever got there, as the van draws up outside the house to take you to the train station.

  1. NMac

    Many nasty Tories were sorry to see the demise of Workhouses which, in my town, did not disappear until after the Second World War. They are itching to reintroduce them. Not for nothing are they called the Nasty Party – a title which was first coined by one of their own nasty members of parliament and which fits them perfectly.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It was coined by Theresa May (which reminds me, I have an article about her to write today).

      1. Gen William Taggart

        Mike just let me know if you need anything concerning the old battle axe, she is my local MP, I have had many a run in with her. Including using her Cabinet position staff to handle constituency matters, yep I know its unlawful, but it does not stop her.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Why? Nobody is going to give any credence to your comment because you provide no argument to support your assertion. NMac has made statements that are supportable by evidence. Let’s see yours.
        I don’t want to seem harsh but there are far too many comments like this in the social media, most of them made by right-wingers who want to shut down a discussion but don’t actually have any argument to support themselves.

      2. Centrist

        “Many nasty Tories were sorry to see the demise of Workhouses which, in my town, did not disappear until after the Second World War. They are itching to reintroduce them.”

        I don’t have to provide the evidence since I didn’t make the initial ridiculous assertions. Where is the evidence for the statement above? Please name the ‘nasty Tories’, and who is itching to reintroduce the workhouses? Also, where is your evidence that I am a ‘right-winger’? Assumptions on your part on a massive scale.

        No doubt in your response you will say you did not personally call me a ‘right-winger’ but that you alluded to ‘right-wingers’ in general; but your inference was downright obvious.

        I am firing this straight back at you: “I don’t want to seem harsh but there are far too many comments like this in the social media”… starting with yours!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Thank you very much!
      Everybody else reading this needs to follow gusman’s example and buy a copy, if you haven’t already. Vox Political books are the perfect givt to turn your friend/partner into a politically-motivated powerhouse (Or just to give them something diverting to read after Christmas and in the New Year)! Also it would make me very happy.

  2. marcusdemowbray

    I said to my wife at least 2 years ago that I expected workhouses to be re-introduced. What took them so long? In principle, the idea of being OFFERED accommodation in EXCHANGE for work and skill learning is not such a bad idea, but in the past they soon became greedy and exploitative, and ultimately an insult to our civilisation. With today’s corporations being:

    A) even more rapacious than workhouse owners of the past, and

    B) often being foreign corporations keen on earning big bonuses and tax avoidance schemes

    this fills me with dread and anger. Camoron’s Cronies were not even elected yet behave as if they have the god-given right to return us to feudalism and slavery.

    1. Ian Stevenson

      workhouses were owned by unions of parishes. Most of the work was pointless e.g. picking oakum (separating tar from old rope-hence the saying money for old rope) not a pleasant task. The object was to teach the poor the habits of industry. (Sound familiar?) They were not allowed productive work as the product would compete with businesses outside. There were a few exceptions but I don’t think they were run for profit.

      1. Florence

        Your observation of the type of work involved rang other bells for me too. I recall seeing a TV item about the untouchable caste in India picking plastic from tips for recycling there, living & working on the sinking heaps, organised by gang-masters who made good profits. Same difference, to use the present day “untouchables” in the UK to sell this idea, and as ever, the 1984-speak of “charity”, and “opportunity”, and the politically sanitised replacement of the term scavenging with “recycling” etc.

        Like the demonization of the disabled and ill to provide a compliant public, this is recycling the policies of the workhouse as a destination for those we used to support and help, now becoming the untouchables of the worth-less underclass. The underclass that has been deliberately created by the government policies.

  3. David

    There is not enough detail here to judge. There is certainly no indication that it Job centre related workfare. Otherwise the work is presumably governed by minimum wage legislation. I presume that housing benefit will be claimed, which brings it under local authority scrutiny

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I think it is entirely possible that you are mistaken in every detail other than the Workfare aspect.

  4. stephaniehadleyart

    So, something that could actually help the homeless and give them skills to get back into a functional, stable life style is just being dismissed and sold off as workhouses, this is just plain scaremongering?

      1. AJ

        Well said chopale. There but for the grace of whoever. Served a 5 year engineering apprenticeship, uni educated. As I advance further into my fifties my MH condition is becoming harder to deal with, causing the end of my career in the industry I worked in. If my wife said go, I would be homeless.

      2. Ulysses

        Exactly, people in there during my stay ranged from IT executives, night club doormen, a hair stylist, businessmen, and I myself have more letters after my name for engineering than you can wave a s**tty stick at.

      3. Smokeball

        The homeless may not be ‘skill-less’ but they have often, in fact usually, reacted to a crisis in their lives by drinking to excess and eventually becoming alcoholic. It is this which has caused their homelessness as the alcohol rules their lives, taking any money they have – so they get behind with rent, mortgage etc – and/ or damaging their families to the extent they are eventually thrown out.
        A scheme which ‘takes over’ the homeless person’s life for a while, giving them a roof over their heads, food and work while they address their alcoholism (or drug addiction) is most likely just what they need, as they’ve lost control of their lives. There will be staff who help them do this, which is probably what will cost the most – their wages. That’s how Emmaus works.
        I don’t know how this scheme will work but if it gets people back on track, helps them into a ‘real’ job and supports them into a home of their own when they are ready, it won’t be a bad thing.

    1. marcusdemowbray

      It might start off with the best intentions (as did workhouses), but how long before “quotas”, cuts, need for profits and “Out-sourced staff”/Jobsworths start changing the original intent and turn it into more “Neo Slavery”, like Zero Hours Contracts, Workfare, Minimum Wages, Unpaid Internships and all the rest of the guff that comes from this mis-government?

      1. Smokeball

        Workhouses were specifically designed to be unpleasant places so people wouldn’t want to go there & would try anything else first. It wasn’t a case of initially nice places getting degraded, they were awful from the start. They were actually ‘kinder’ in their later years.

  5. Frankie Cook

    There is a place in Preston that does a similar thing called Emmaus. People (who are primarily drug users) get 30 pound a week and a roof in return for minimum 40 hours work. This scheme is already in existence folks.

  6. CarolinePlebMolloy (@carolinejmolloy)

    I think Emmaus do some good work and I wouldn’t want to take a politically purist position. But surely the bottom line should be that in a welfare state (as opposed to a workhouse state), people have a right to a roof over their head, separate from any job seeking obligations on them to accept whatever work is going or face destitution.

    Questions – do the tenants receive Housing Benefit and pay rent? If so, why should they be *forced* to work on top (which is not to say they couldn’t be offered and even encouraged by support workers to do voluntary work which best supports and develops them – which may or may not be this ‘social enterprise’).

    Ah yes, social enterprise.

    Readers may recall that it was another social enterprise (again, a loosely ‘environmental/recycling’ one) that made a guy on minimum wage redundant – then did a deal with the DWP so he’d be forced to go back and work for free with them, or lose his benefits.

    ‘Social enterprise’ is a concept beloved of everyone from Frances Maude to Blairites & blue labour, that has no legal definition just some woolly guidelines about ‘acting for the social good’ whatever that means.

    As I pointed out with the abovementioned story, a lot of the new crop of so-called ‘social enterprises’ seem to interpret ‘acting for the social good’ as ‘exploiting social need’, often under the rubric of ‘supporting people back to work’, that IDS-beloved euphemism for workfare etc.

    Proper things like worker co-ops and Industrial & Provident Societies are much better but I bet that’s not the legal form this ‘social enterprise’ takes, I bet it’s a lightly regulated ‘Community Interest Company’. A Blairite creation which was a soft option for outsourcing services to non-unionised, self-exploiting (at best) or exploitative (at worst) outfits, capturing the energy of many activists in the process (notice how many ‘social enterprises’ are environmental & waste services.

    Once upon a winter of discontent, in the days when we believed in old fashioned concepts like ‘a fair days work for a fair days pay’ and ‘no forced labour’ and ‘the right to organise and use one’s labour as bargaining power for decent terms and conditions’… the binmen struck, and the uncollected rubbish piled up in the streets and brought down a government.

    Although the above article raises unanswered questions, these days it seems it would be the waste workers themselves piling up in the streets.

    Successive governments have obviously learned the lesson well and the big 3 parties do sometimes appear to hanker for the days when recalcitrant workers faced two choices – workhouse or a return to vagrancy.

    1. Ulysses

      “Questions – do the tenants receive Housing Benefit and pay rent? ”

      I imagine they will, on both counts-
      Hostels bill the local authority around £370 per week (in Manchester at least, other areas i couldn’t say)

      THEN, the hostels bill each tenant a £27 “service charge” for 2 meals, breakfast and evening main meal, heating and 2 clothes washing tablets per week – again the caveat this is applicable in Manchester i cannot say about the costs in other regions

      These places are run for profit and no other reason, you miss that service charge payment due to Sanctioning and you get frogmarched – at the time, for me at least for a Crisis loan, if you were not eligible it was made clear after around 2- 3 weeks you were out. And the bill for any missed week and part weeks landed on the mat of the next door you were lucky enough to be accepted. Now, i imagine they will be chasing for the crisis loans replacement payment

      Despite there being a recycling business model and profits accrued, i cannot forsee any reason why the organisation involved would not also be attempting to screw the maximum possible amount of housing benefit, as well as any applicable service charges

  7. AJ

    First they test them on the parts of society the politicians don’t think the people care about, ex cons, drug users, alcoholics etc. If Joe public doesn’t complain to much or more importantly the MSM they extend them to the disabled and mentally ill. If no further complaints are heard the gloves are off and they are coming for you. You work for your bed in hospital if you have no insurance, after all you can fill envelopes can’t you?

  8. Florence

    The defining principle has to be – will those working be on the minimum wage, will the deductions for housing be fair, and will the “support” element be funded by DWP / Social funds? If the basic requirement isn’t met – that those in the scheme are given the full minimum wage, and then pay for the housing & food elements – then it is an old fashioned workhouse.

    Let’s consider that even for workfare, housing costs and £71 pw are considered enough recompense for a full week’s work, and that is slave labour, as the means to live are denied if one decides not to participate. If Emmaus are “paying” £30 for 40 hour weeks, I think that is actually exploiting the vulnerable. The fact they have been able to set up such a scheme does not make it OK, or provide a safe justification for others.

    There is another part to consider too, which is will the accommodation be homes, or hostel-like? Will the requirement to work over-ride health issues, and treatment for health issues? Will the requirement to work in the re-cycling plant be a prerequisite to housing, as such work is not suitable for many?

    I think this is dangerously close to the workhouse, and in case anyone has anything to say about my motives, my grandfather died in a workhouse. I will condemn any move to reintroduce them. The welfare state was founded by those who knew the workhouse because they robbed people of their dignity, stripped out humanity, degraded health, lives and hope.

  9. Rouge Noir (@Jules_Clarke)

    [ ˈwəːkhaʊs ]
    noun: workhouse · plural noun: workhouses

    (in the UK) a public institution in which the destitute of a parish received board and lodging in return for work.

    a prison in which petty offenders are expected to work.

    [ ˈɑːmzhaʊs ]
    noun: almshouse · plural noun: almshouses · noun: alms-house · plural noun: alms-h…

    a house founded by charity, offering accommodation for poor people.

    [ ˈpɔːhaʊs, ˈpʊəhaʊs ]
    noun: poorhouse · plural noun: poorhouses · noun: poor-house · plural noun: poor-h…

    another term for workhouse.

    All of which are altruistic when state doesnt supply a duty of care to citizens.
    Historically workhouses were demeaned because poverty was scorned on and people were blamed for their poverty.

    You would need to incorporate the altruistic nature of these against social expectations and comment that society was to blame for destitution to rue their existence.

    BTW almshouses gave birth to social housing.

    This is no way a comment on conditionality or environment in historical places or any comment on the example above. Just a frame to work with. I hope this helps thoughts.

  10. izzythedram

    There are a lot of potential problems with this, but it has to be an improvement on just expecting a vulnerable ex-homeless person who may have depression, addictions etc to cope with living alone in a bedsit maybe in an unfamiliar area and with little or no support, which does happen.

    I think that this model might help some people move off the street to something more independent and it might even suit some people on a permanent basis. It all depends on how it’s done, with pressure, sanctions and bullying, or in a decent way.

    1. Michele Witchy Eve

      The struggle here is to understand why safety and security can’t be offered to someone who is vulnerable and homeless without there being a price (picking through litter?), attached to a supposed act of social caring. There are much better ways than this to restore a person’s self-respect and self-esteem, though they tend to be much less profitable in the short-term.

  11. bookmanwales

    The principle is sound and is in fact in use in many places .. the Salvation Army for one would give a bed and food in return for some cleaning / domestic chores, other hostels I stayed in in London when homeless in the 80’s had similar demands. For some these places did make a difference to their lives.
    However, charities are no longer solely charities and run as businesses, most of them having special revenue raising teams, such revenue now including workfare payments and thus leading to sanctions for non-“volunteering”.
    If these schemes are entirely voluntary then they can indeed give people the chance to get their lives back on track, but if they become a sanction-based scheme then it is no more than a good old-fashioned workhouse.
    Given the way charities are now run and given the current government’s desire to pauperise anyone not fit, able-bodied and/or full-time employed, I’m pretty sure which way these schemes will go.

  12. BJF

    The original workhouses were not places of punishment but of refuge. It was later that they became a punishment and threat. This is the original idea, to help people. It’s terrible that it is needed but it seems full of good intent.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That seems entirely dependent on the methods used, as others here have noted.
      Nobody seems to have mentioned that this whole plan only handles a symptom of the real problem – the fact that people are being forced into destitution and homelessness at a time when the richest people in the UK have doubled their personal wealth within five years. That is the issue that needs to be addressed.

      1. Rouge Noir (@Jules_Clarke)

        Yes mike I hinted at to rue the existence you would need to examine cause ie society. And Indeed as I said if duty of care from society ( i.e. safety net as it is used in common phrase) is fragmented/ destroyed and divided into deserving/ undeserving we will end up with a society based on victorian or earlier values (theoretically at least). I think the range of issues is vast. But I personally cant condemn supportive assistance – unless it is a forced compliance/forced receipt of service.. Then There is the crux of objection.
        People are conflating also that in the US workhouse is/was a prison.
        Here along side from workhouses there were debtors prisons which WERENT the workhouse.
        Again I Hope that helps the thinkers out there.

  13. foodbankhelper

    I’m not sure that the principle is in the least bit sound. We don’t know enough to judge. I think we need to know a lot more about who is behind it, what they’re being paid per homeless person, and what the longer term prospects are for those to whom it is providing shelter and ‘work opportunities’? What support will they get with their longer-term needs while they’re there? Like bookmanwales I’d like to know if the scheme will take people on a ‘workfare’ basis or whether they will come there following a sanction. I too would be most concerned about any question of sanctions for non-‘volunteering’. Florence makes the crucial point about exactly how much people will be paid. The original story mentions nothing about pay, so is it safe to assume pay will be nothing – or maybe £30-£40 a week? We need to know a lot more about this. At the moment, and on the face of it, this is shaping up to be a workhouse in all but name. Looking at homelessness trends in London, I’ve been predicting workhouses for a while. I really hope I’m wrong. Thanks for flagging this one up Mike. If I do find out any more about this particular project I’ll feed info back to you. If workhouses do take off as a business model for someone, I wonder what their 21st century reincarnation will be called? Safehouse? Brighthouse? (no, that one’s been used already). Any predictions?

  14. Thomas M

    Apart from anything else, even reasonably fair workfare destroys paid jobs and creates more unemployment.

  15. HomerJS

    Personally I am against connecting a place to work with a place to live. There are employers who are allowed to deduct housing costs from wages, which tends to be a way to get around the minimum wage. It is quite easy to see schemes as having good intentions and ‘trying to help’, but the risk of abuse of vulnerable and disadvantaged people is just too great.

    1. Peeve

      I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head, Homer. A while back, I used to work in social housing regulation at the time the first Foyers were set up. Foyers house vulnerable young people who are NEET (not in employment, education or training) and help them into work, but the original developers wanted to make the acceptance of that training a condition of their tenancy. We said no – that the work element had to be completely separate. Of course, social housing is now barely regulated so I don’t know if that has changed, but I think you are right that the two should not be connected for the very reasons you describe.

  16. Caroline Beddow

    EMMAUS a very well known charity, have used this idea as a successful model for helping the homeless… There are several already in existence. they help solve a host of problems, many of which can perpetuate homelessness, in the hope of securing the persons using the service with a long term better way of life. many of them have previously slipped through the social service nets that were designed to help them and this is often a very successful way to get people the help they actually need, in a way they feel comfortable accepting it. At other branches they do a good job of taking peoples unwanted items and restoring them and selling them on at little cost to people who are also often in need to low cost goods. Don’t knock it until you know exactly what it is you are dealing with !!!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Alternatively, don’t defend it – for exactly the same reason.
      All we’re doing is discussing the issue and airing concerns about it. There are people here who have been through similar schemes and are highly disparaging about them – what do you have to say to them? Have you been through the Emmaus route, and if so, what safeguards are built into it to ensure the safety and security of the homeless person? There are many issues to do with the charity benefiting while the person does not – how were these handled?

  17. maxwell1957

    For a deeper insight into the history of the workhouse can I humbly suggest that people would gain a greater insight if they were to spend some time reading the book Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas, Michel Foucault.

    One thing that you may notice from reading this excellent history is that, even though the period of which he writes is better known as ” The Age of Enlightenment “, that there has been little change in the reason for the establishments.

  18. Tabitha Mellor

    By providing support for people to stay in their own homes (which is a vastly cheaper option), building enough affordable homes to rent and controlling the privately rented sector effectively, society would negate any need for workhouses in the first place.

    There should be no need for charities, let alone workhouse set ups, in the first place.

    Sadly we are headed in the opposite direction as the new round of savage ‘austerity’ cuts comes into play.

  19. caledonia

    This is scary stuff. After reading the above comments I figured out that the “work house and poor house” are one and the same thing. My mum used to scare me when I was a kid, when I asked for a penny and was told “I don’t have it, do you want us all to end up in the poor house?”

    Well I often think of the homeless when I’m sitting in my cosy house on a stormy night for example. I wonder where these people are sleeping and often think I’d like to help them. If this work place does help them, then I would feel very happy about it, BUT I tend to have the same reservations as most people here and think that they would be exploited, if not in the beginning, I’m sure it would eventually turn out that way.

    If charities want to help these people, why don’t they get them into proper jobs or training, not use them for jobs that most people wouldn’t ever want to do?

    Finally though, why does the present government not do more for the homeless. Big ask I suppose when they are the ones responsible for putting people in the position they are in.

    A rich country with food banks and work houses or as I was told “the poor house” it’s shameful!.

  20. Ken

    It is reasonable to have reservations about this move, not least because relying on charities rather than nationwide government provision is a patchwork solution to a national problem, but this could also have positive results for some people if it helps to reintegrate them into the workplace. As usual, the devil is in the detail. What will the working conditions be like Will they be encouraged to join a union? What will the pay be like? How much help an/d/or autonomy will they have in the accommodation?

  21. justlook

    Smokeball said:

    November 29, 2014 at 10:56 am

    The homeless may not be ‘skill-less’ but they have often, in fact usually, reacted to a crisis in their lives by drinking to excess and eventually becoming alcoholic. It is this which has caused their homelessness as the alcohol rules their lives, taking any money they have – so they get behind with rent, mortgage etc – and/ or damaging their families to the extent they are eventually thrown out.
    A scheme which ‘takes over’ the homeless person’s life for a while, giving them a roof over their heads, food and work while they address their alcoholism (or drug addiction) is most likely just what they need, as they’ve lost control of their lives. ……………..

    Really. You’re talking out of an assumption. Only a fraction of homeless people have drug or alcohol problems, or failed marriages. Half the country is a week or two of pay packets away from homelessness. Are you aware that there will be 90,000 homeless children in the UK this Christmas? Pitifully low wages, sky rocketing rents, huge energy/heating costs, benefit delays/sanctions/subsistence allowance – these are the most prominent causes of homelessness in the UK.

    None of these people I cite above will be helped by a scheme which takes over their lives, they already have enough external pressures they cannot influence in the form of others making decisions for them or without asking them. What people need is work that pays a living wage, rent controls, landlord and rental regulation, and a benefits system that actually helps them instead of meting out punitive punishments in the form of sanctions whilst having to carry on working workfare with no money to eat.

    If you are really concerned about helping people with drug and alcohol problems, helping them to get their lives back on track and contribute to society -begin in Westminster, where the we saw just last week one high official off his head whilst sitting on the front benches during QT. It is at THIS core of decision-making at a high level from whence these problems stem.

  22. Liz Needham

    As someone who was a Trustee for Emmaus St Albans for almost nine years I can assure you that places like it do not make a profit! On the contrary, it was a struggle almost every month. Emmaus St Albans provides accommodation for up to 25 people and their pets too. The motto is “we’ll provide you a bed and a reason to get out of it”. Work is divided between renovating and recycling donated furniture, working in the two shops selling the refurbished furniture, driving the collection/delivery vans, working in the back office with the online shop, maintaining the premises, doing the cooking and other household chores. The organisation is funded by housing benefit (and therefore subject to tight controls), donations of furniture and money, and by the turnover from the shops. No-one is forced to come into Emmaus. There is, in fact, usually a waiting list. People stay for as long or short a time as they need and often move on to full employment and independent living. Most people I knew who lived there were very glad of the opportunity. It is most certainly NOT a workhouse and the staff work very hard to provide counselling of any description that is needed. It may be that, in an ideal world, places like Emmaus shouldn’t be necessary but please do not knock it until you’ve learned more about it.

    1. Ulysses

      Ok, I’ll take you at face value without any supporting evidence that the recycling side was run as a non profit organisation, but can you provide the figure for housing benefit claimed for each resident, and secondly the amount of service charge each resident was liable for?

      I’ll say it again, the homeless charity “HOME group”, in 2012, billed the local authority in the region of £375 PER WEEK housing benefit, and charged residents £27 PER WEEK service charge. I can provide scans of all bills i kept if proof is required.

  23. izzythedram

    Government policies and capitalism often create homelessness. Addiction and mental health problems do so also and are often compounded by homelessness. Rebuilding a life is extremely difficult in a fragmented society where official help is scant and homeless people often suffer from addiction, depression and a difficulty in connecting with others, sending them in a downward spiral.

    Some people need kindness, a surrogate family and a meaning to their lives before they can break out of that spiral. Our society expects individuals to survive in isolation which is impossible for many people to tolerate, and some people are placed in bedsits from the streets without support and go back to the streets again because they cant cope with the loneliness, let alone manage the practicalities of life.

    Some of the charities like Emmaus doing this sort of thing seem to do excellent work with such people, helping them on all fronts.

    This government though has an appalling record of using what seem to be common-sense and humane ideas, as ways of perpetuating their war on the poor under cover. Exploiting them for profit on workfare, pretending that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed so that they need therapy rather than jobs etc.

    Whether this particular project is one or the other or something else again is something that it would be good to investigate. Maybe I’ll have a go.

    But i wouldn’t assume it’s a front for unpleasant profiteering in the meantime.

  24. Chris Tandy

    Victorian workhouses were, in essence, prisons, where the poor were punished for being poor. To get a feeling of how grim this was, visit the National Trust’s preserved workhouse in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
    Thus, I wonder, how near to being a prison is the Blackburn bus-garage? Will the ‘inmates’ have free time to come and go as they please, outside ‘working’ hours? The inmates at Southwell were walled in, out of sight of ‘hardworking’ people and moreover, the sexes were were separated within, even when not being made to work.
    Will the ex bus-garage be fitted with security fencing to keep the inmates firmly in their place?

    1. Ulysses

      While by no means forced to remain inside during the daytime, movement in and out is free up until 2am to around breakfast – not a rigid time but around 6am onward, hostels are single sex, and partners or even female family were not permitted past the front office. In certain circumstances the dining hall could be used to see female reletaves

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