Project snapshot

Property purchase and conversion
To create a space for training vulnerable adults – until the pandemic hit and things changed

St Vincent’s & St George’s Association gave pandemic key workers a place to stay

The cause

St Vincent’s and St George’s Association believes that everyone has the right to lead an independent and fulfilling life. They provide vital care and support services to people with disabilities, health conditions and complex needs – as well as for the elderly.

Our support

The association bought a Grade two listing building to restore this former guesthouse and place of education to its former glory; with the aim of providing both income from overnight guests and practical skills training to adults with learning disabilities. This would also give them fulfilling work and the chance to grow their opportunities in life.

Helped by a £350,000 loan from CAF Bank, on top of the charity’s fundraising, they were able to refurbish this Grade II listed building, and launch their social enterprise project there in January 2020.

We want our service users to have all the tools they’re going to need, and the confidence and the experience to get a job, and be treated as any other person would be in their new place of work.

April Taylor
St Vincent's and St George's Association

The impact

The Portland Guesthouse is a safe, welcoming space where independence, friendships and confidence are developed. People with disabilities can work there, gaining qualifications in hospitality, and receiving guidance on moving into paid employment.

The charity’s CEO, April Taylor, explained the vision for the project: “We want our service users to have all the tools that they’re going to need, and the confidence and the experience to be able to go in and get an interview, get a job and actually be treated as any other person would be in their new place of work”.

The visitors who stay there fund the crucial work this initiative carries out. At least they did, until the pandemic hit.

Subsidised by donations, the guesthouse pivoted during the pandemic, offering free overnight accommodation for NHS staff and key workers who need to isolate from their families. The safe, welcoming environment remains and this project continues to play a vital role in serving the local community.

April said: “With all the focus on the NHS, we felt that other groups of health and social care staff had been forgotten. We wanted to recognise and offer them the same support at The Portland, and to show that they are valued just as much. Everybody on the frontline was working incredibly hard.

“In the first weekend, we had a nurse stay and it grew from there, to the point where we were full to capacity for weeks during the national lockdown”.

Project takeaways

Finance for sustainability

At the heart of the Portland Guesthouse project is a desire to support people with dignity and the opportunity to develop lifelong skills. It brings together different forms of financing to provide a sustainable environment.

Adapting to change

This project is a textbook example of how circumstances can change and force us to reconsider plans. By thinking about their sustainable community focus more broadly, St Vincent’s and St George’s Association was able to continue to make a difference, just in a different way to that which they originally planned. In doing so, they also remained an integral part of their local community.

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