£1m appeal launched to build hub to help ex-prisoners beat addiction

A fund-raising appeal is being launched after plans to transform a Wigan church and build supported accommodation to help change lives were given the green light.

Members of St Barnabas’ Church, in Marsh Green, want to develop the site to create a hub making a real difference to the community.

Ann Fairhust, Father Philip Anderson, Rev Rachel Sheehan and Michelle Rimmer from Partners Foundation with members of the community. Partners have given 1m towards transforming the church to provide a nine bed supported accommodation for people who have come out of prison

Ann Fairhust, Father Philip Anderson, Rev Rachel Sheehan and Michelle Rimmer from Partners Foundation with members of the community. Partners have given 1m towards transforming the church to provide a nine bed supported accommodation for people who have come out of prison

Wigan Council’s planners have now given permission for the scheme, which will see work carried out to extend the church and a new building erected to provide supported accommodation in nine flats.

The total project is expected to cost £2.1m, with just over £1m coming from Partners Foundation, a Wigan-based supported housing landlord which will manage the accommodation.

It will be used by people released from prison, recovering drug and alcohol users and others in need of help so they can change their lives.

The Reverend Rachel Sheehan said: “I think it is going to make a huge difference.

St Barnabas

St Barnabas

“We have already got stories from people who use this place and feel as if they are part of something more.

“The love and the care that this community has for each other, they really stand up for each other and care for one another. For people who are struggling, this is really important.”

The development was the brainchild of the church’s former vicar, the Reverend Denise Hayes, who left Wigan in June for a new church in Hattersley, east Manchester.

When she first arrived at St Barnabas’, she conducted a funeral for a man who died by suicide and his mother wished there had been more support for him in the community.

The church has been working to make a difference, including running a pay-as-you-feel food outlet and working with a variety of organisations offering help, such as Addaction and Alcoholics Anonymous.

The supported accommodation will provide somewhere for people to stay and access help from a variety of sources.

Miss Sheehan said: “We are hoping it can be used for people in the local area who have just come out of prison, come out of rehab, those who are really struggling but want to get their lives back on track.”

Ann Fairhurst, local missional leader at the church, said: “It’s really about helping people deal with their addictions and come off drugs and alcohol - that’s what the aim is.

“That’s through providing all the things that the rest of the church engagement centre will offer - volunteer opportunities, therapeutic interventions, company.”

The accommodation will be managed by Partners Foundation, with other organisations providing support for the tenants to address their issues.

Michelle Rimmer, managing director of Partners Foundation, said: “We think it will be an absolutely brilliant project.

“The people that are involved and the way everyone is taking ownership and pulling together, I think it will be really successful and we are really excited about being part of that.”

The church building will also be renovated as part of the development, which will provide a better space for the activities and events that take place there.

A mezzanine floor will be created, with extra facilities including meeting rooms that can be used by district nurses, Addaction staff and other organisations, creating a real community hub.

Mrs Fairhurst said: “We do get a lot of local organisations using the church and if they want to meet up, there will be private space for that for one-to-one meetings or small meetings.”

Church leaders and members of the congregation are now looking at a variety of ways to bring in the rest of the money needed for the large development.

They are setting up a fund-raising group to apply for grants, encourage stakeholders to get involved and organise fund-raisers for the community. They hope to have firm plans in place by Christmas.

Mrs Fairhurst said: “It will be from sponsor a brick to companies that could get in touch with us about their corporate social responsibility and help.”

It is hoped that building work will begin next year, with the project ready by 2022. To get involved call 01695 386650.