‘A wonderful example of what can be achieved if you think differently’ – Martyn Hale talks about the creation of Lorna Esien Court in partnership with St Basils
Throughout lockdown we have worked with one of our partners, St Basils, to provide more accommodation for young people in Coventry experiencing homelessness.
Farmcote Lodge was our former retirement living scheme and St Basils approached us to help transform it into a new scheme for young people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, in memory of the Deputy Chief Executive at St Basils, Lorna Esien.
Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale talks about the creation of Lorna Esien Court and how, by thinking differently, we have played a part in developing something that will make a real difference to young people now and in the future.
When we think about partnership working in terms of homeless prevention amongst young people what does this conjure up?
Accommodation with support, a traditional commissioning relationship and a short-term revenue solution, or something very different and unique.
True partnership working takes the art of the impossible and makes it possible. Citizen and St Basils did this in Coventry during what was a very difficult period nationally, as we responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
Citizen has had a long, positive relationship with St Basils across the West Midlands. They manage several services from schemes on our behalf and are a powerful influencer both regionally and nationally in terms of addressing youth homelessness.
When we began to talk with them about a scheme in Coventry there was an obvious natural fit. Farmcote Lodge was a former retirement living scheme in Coventry that was occupied by property guardians pending a decision on its future.
We eventually agreed to dispose of Farmcote Lodge to St Basils but what made these discussions different was a desire to make this work financially but also in terms of deliverability.
A capital receipt was important but not at the expense of making the proposed service unviable. We discussed this openly with St Basils and came up with a solution that looked at disposing of the building at less than market value.
We took this idea to our Board, making it clear that our articles of association allowed us to do this, if the Board agreed that it fitted with our wider social purpose. I’m delighted to say that this was welcomed and supported.
The sale was agreed, and the building transferred to St Basils, who secured funding from Homes England and Heart of England Foundation Trust, in late 2019.
Almost immediately work began and the building has now opened and is a wonderful example of what can be achieved if you think differently.
So, you might be thinking where does the name Lorna Esien Court fit into this story?
Lorna was the Deputy Chief Executive of St Basils who very sadly passed away. Lorna was a force to be reckoned with and a powerful advocate for those who were homeless and needed support. For more than two decades Lorna worked with Jean Templeton, St Basils innovative Chief Executive, to create safe accommodation and services for homeless 16-25-year olds and advocate for transformational change in terms of homelessness prevention.
As a fitting tribute the new service was named Lorna Esien Court and opened formally by her family last year.
What makes this story special is the legacy that Lorna leaves and will live on in the service that St Basils provides.
Citizen played a part in this because we were willing to consider the outcome rather than focus on barriers, working with St Basils to create solutions.
By thinking differently, we have played a part in developing something that will make a real difference to young people now and in the future. Given the challenges we have all faced over the last 12 months it is fantastic that such a service has been able to develop and now open.
We all need to feel and hope we make a difference and sometimes something wonderful can emerge. Lorna Esien Court is one such example.
Martyn Hale, Director of Care and Support
Find out more about Lorna Esien Court in the video below: