Willmott Dixon Interiors starts work on £4m Watford hostel redevelopment

Construction work has begun on the £4m refurbishment of One YMCA’s Charter House hostel in Watford.

Willmott Dixon Interiors has been appointed to remodel three floors within the existing building, creating 34 new bespoke rooms for rough sleepers.

The national fit out and refurbishment specialist contractor will also deliver new training, engagement and activity space to provide people with the skills to come out of homelessness and unemployment.

New facilities will include a full height feature residents lounge and gantry, new commercial kitchen with extended dining spaces and a residents training kitchen. The building will also benefit from a new cafe, computer room and quiet space.

Willmott Dixon Interiors will allocate a minimum of 5% social return on investment of the project value, through activities including work experience placements, apprenticeship opportunities, mentoring, careers advice and health and wellbeing initiatives, such as cooking classes.

The contractor will also deliver support for local enterprises and work alongside One YMCA in providing training for homeless young people throughout the duration of the project. Local residents will be given free access to Willmott Dixon Interiors’ Building Lives Academy, which provides an opportunity to secure construction-based qualifications.

One YMCA says its investment in Watford will bring an estimated half a billion pounds of social value and savings to the local public purse each year, by reducing the significant costs of homelessness to the town.

The charity aims to move people into the new units from as early as July 2021.

Graham Shaw, managing director at Willmott Dixon Interiors, said: “This is an important project that is all about ending homelessness in Watford, by delivering a safe and supportive environment for rough sleepers. One YMCA does incredible work in providing expert and tailored support to enable people to rehabilitate with independence. We’re very pleased to be supporting the charity through the delivery of additional community-focused activities for homeless people and local residents.”

Mark Turner, director of operations at One YMCA said: “It is almost impossible to understand the level of challenge and risk that those sleeping rough on our streets face day in and day out, especially during this COVID period. Those risks being quite literally a matter of life or death for many of those with underlying health conditions. However, in taking the difficult decision to change the use of and refurbish areas of our building to create this much needed move-on accommodation, we are absolutely certain we will have been able to save lives and help many otherwise vulnerable individuals back on their journey towards independence.”