Homeless community group secures land in Stevenage

Malcolm Dawn, Mark Payne, Dave Cronin, pc, Isobel Barnes, project leader, Stephen Cockrane, Jane Kea

Malcolm Dawn, Mark Payne, Dave Cronin, pc, Isobel Barnes, project leader, Stephen Cockrane, Jane Keating, pc, Matthew Ball, Karen Miller, Craig Ansell and Tony Franklin - Credit: Archant

A community group which was made homeless last year is getting ready to open a new site.

Waste Not Want Not – which uses horticulture as a therapeutic tool to help the homeless, former addicts and offenders, and people with physical disabilities or mental illness – lost its site in Rabley Heath in November last year.

It has secured land on Stevenage Road in Stevenage and are preparing the four-acre site for an official opening in the spring.

Retired social worker Isobel Barnes, who runs Waste Not Want Not, said: “We have taken the land on a 10-year lease. It was just barren land. We have been making it secure and refurbishing sheds and we are planning to open it in March.

“In the meantime we are working with the Offender Management Unit at Herts Police, offenders have created a potting area and rainwater harvesting devices. They have also been making benches out of old pallets.

“The site is devoid of mains water or power. We are seeking the help of Hertfordshire University and others to sort out some solar power, and applying for funding to get mains water.

“Having lost our site in November last year, we now have this site, a site at the Galleria in Hatfield where we sell what we grow, and an area at Codicote Garden Centre.”

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A year ago the group had 10 hours paid employment and 15 hours voluntary work each week, and now they have 15 hours paid employment and 80 hours voluntary work each week.

Mrs Barnes said: “We have got people who have multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, autism, Asperger’s, or are mentally ill. We have ex addicts, offenders and homeless people, as well as members of the public at large.

“People can refer themselves or, quite often, friends or relatives do it for them.”

Of the Stevenage site, which attracts volunteers from North Herts and Stevenage, Mrs Barnes said: “This gives us fantastic scope to grow not just plants, but fruit and vegetables for our volunteers too.”

North Herts District Council, Stevenage Borough Council and Herts County Council have given financial support to help get the Stevenage site up and running.

For more information about Waste Not Want Not, visit www.wastenotwantnot.org.uk