Barrow housing charity secures funding to move into its own headquarters


Jamie Grimshaw Christine Bee

A community champion whose charity has helped hundreds of homeless and vulnerable people into stable accommodation has moved into her own offices – thanks to a loan from specialist lender Together.

Christine Hughes, founder and CEO of Cumbria Community Homes (CCH) secured the offices in Carlisle Street, Barrow, after agreeing short-term finance of more than £90,000 from the North West-based lender.

The well-known charity leader – whose uncle was former Liverpool and England footballing legend Emlyn Hughes – is now pressing ahead with major plans to renovate the building’s downstairs as offices.

They will be accessible for people with mobility problems and accommodate CCH’s maintenance and specialist care teams.

The care provider has also applied for planning permission to turn the building’s first floor into architect-designed, self-contained flats to be used as short-term accommodation for vulnerable homeless people or victims of exploitation and abuse.

Christine, from Barrow, said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to move into our own offices in the town centre as a permanent base.

We already have 450 tenants in rented properties who have been referred to us from councils across the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside.

We’re now looking to strategically grow our own portfolio of properties in areas where there is a high demand for care services, to help people re-build their lives in a safe and secure environment.

Together has been amazing from start to finish in providing the finance for new headquarters, so we can support more people, who may be homeless, have mental health problems or autism or are escaping violent partners.”

Experienced care and property professional Christine set up CCH as a charity in 2019.

Currently, it runs services for Cumbria County Council, among other local authorities in the North, for people with autism and mental health issues.

It also provides specialist care packages for those who need them, renting homes from landlords to house tenants referred by councils.

However, Christine said:

“We want to buy our own housing stock, which will mean reducing the rents for the councils that we work with.

We’ll start off by buying properties in the areas where we operate now but we will expand to council areas wherever there’s a need – so the sky’s the limit.”

Previously a project manager for her family building firm, Christine was inspired into a change of career after her heart breaking experiences providing palliative care for her mother. She died in 2010 of mesothelioma, a respiratory disease caused by exposure to deadly asbestos.

A loving daughter, she also nursed her father, a builder, until his death, having to make the agonising decision for doctors to turn off his life support machine when he was admitted to hospital in 2015 after having a fall.

Christine later joined Barrow Borough Council as a Homeless Officer responsible for providing safe accommodation and support to hundreds of homeless people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.

Jamie Grimshaw, Regional Development Director for the North West at Together, said:

“Christine is not only vastly experienced in property and care but is an inspirational individual and a well-respected leader in her community.

We were delighted to provide the finance needed to meet Cumbria Community Homes’ move into its new offices and are currently in discussions with Christine about her ambitions to build her social housing property portfolio across the North.”