Shekinah hope to turn the empty Stonehouse Community Centre into a new type of community centre designed to bring the ‘system’ to those who need it, all in one place. 

The new venture will offer a wide range of services including: 

  • Skills training
  • Health promotion
  • Education
  • Employment services
  • Housing advice
  • Medical support including an outreach GP service and a practice nurse
  • Mental health support
  • Counselling
  • Learning exchange

The aim is to have all the services in a safe space and to encourage local people to be part of a project that changes lives.

While we specialise in helping those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or in temporary accommodation, the centre will not provide residential accommodation.

Chief executive John Hamblin said: “We want to provide access to services which historically have been difficult for some people to get. Many, many factors can lead to homelessness. We look at what the issues are and work with people to address them.

“We think this centre is in a great location – it’s near Devonport and Stonehouse, but not in the city centre. It has some space around it, which gives people more confidence to use it.

“We are also keen to see people nearby sharing their skills and experiences and are hoping to set up a learning exchange – a friendly safe space where people could learn skills from each other.

“We know that giving people four walls and a TV is just not enough. People want a sense of purpose and access to activities and opportunities can be one of the things that provide this.”  

This move will not only help the charity address problems faced by many individuals and families across the city, it also means moving from Bath Street will enable the regeneration work around Millbay Boulevard to continue.

Staff at Shekinah are keen to talk with local residents and work positively with the community and the people attending the centre.

Over the coming weeks we will be hosting a number of drop in sessions to hear ideas in more detail, listen to suggestions as well as nail detail on some exciting plans for a DIY SOS-style community effort to transform the property – under professional supervision, of course.

We are currently in discussions with the Council about possible financial support as well as arrangements for taking over the community centre and the form that would take.

Council Leader Nick Kelly added: “Shekinah have an incredible track record of changing lives of many Plymouth people who have hit troubled points in their lives.

“We are keen to support them where we can. This proposed move will not only mean a building gets a new lease of life, but it means that we can continue with our long term plans to regenerate Millbay. What was once a backwater area is changing. The new boulevard has really opened up this area. There’s a new hotel being built. All this is good for the city, good for its economy and residents.”

Shekinah will be holding some drop-in sessions for anyone to pop along to on 11th and 18th January, between 6 and 8pm at their Bath Street centre to chat to staff about the proposals and to learn more about the work they do. If you are unable to attend but would like more information please contact Shekinah on reception@shekinah.co.uk

FAQs

  • I am worried that there are going to be people who are drunk or on drugs hanging around – what assurances can you give that this will not happen?
  • Whilst Shekinah works with people who may be experiencing drug or alcohol problems, we are also clear that we expect people who attend to behave in a way that is respectful to others. Everyone that attends the centre will be reminded of this and we will continue to work with local residents, councillors, and the police to address any concerns people may have.

    We will also develop a centre management plan that will include steps to address any anti-social behaviour connected to the centre that may occur.   

  • What sort of hours are you planning to operate?
  • We currently operate the main service between 8am – 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 11am on Saturdays. We also have some other groups who use the building in the evenings and hope that by creating an inspiring space we will see other local community groups make use of the facility. 

  • Don’t you need planning permission for this?
  • We have been in touch with the planning department at Plymouth City Council and they advised a change of use planning application is not necessary as the intended use is still as a community centre – which was the building’s original use.

  • What sort of time line are you working towards?
  • We are aiming to start renovation work within the first quarter of 2022. We envisage the works taking somewhere in the region of three to four months. 

  • What will you be doing in the building? 
  • Whilst we currently offer mental health support, training opportunities, counselling, money advice and adult learning, we hope to offer a broader range of activities. This could include horticulture, fitness activities such as Pilates, additional health services and activities that both the people that use the centre and the local community may find beneficial.

  • How can we get involved?
  • Shekinah is very keen to hear from anyone who wishes to get involved. Volunteers have the opportunity to help with any of the services we offer, and we are also keen to hear from volunteers who may have suggestions of things that could be delivered through our learning exchange.

  • Who do we speak with if we have any concerns?
  • We are planning to hold a couple of open events where members of the public can come and speak with us. In addition, we will give people contact details of key people as well as a plan to hold quarterly meetings with local-residents to discuss any ongoing concerns or suggestions.