As energy bills triple, food prices rocket and the housing market squeezes homebuyers and renters alike… it is evident that the risk of homelessness and numbers becoming homeless is a major concern.


It is predicted that by 2024 that 60,000 more people will become homeless (Crisis, 2022).

The first wave of Covid-19 saw the introduction of the ‘Everyone In’ initiative by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (the Department), local authorities and the voluntary sector, this initiative saw 37,000 people housed in all forms of accommodation up and down the country as hotels opened their doors (9 times the number of rough sleepers that were on record). However, as these measures end, the cost-of-living crisis bites, and with the numbers of evictions rising, there is growing concern for the adults and children affected.

How does this affect ME?

Homelessness and the risk of homelessness can affect anyone. Someone may find themselves working one day and becoming redundant the next, unable to find another job. As mortgages and rents rise, people can find themselves choosing between essentials, with many at the cusp of fuel poverty.

JOINED UP working

In 2018, Paul Spooner (Chair of the Fred Winter Centre Partnership) broached the question of how to best tackle homelessness in the Midlands, specifically to Stratford council, and was there a new opportunity. The answer came in the form of a framework; getting charities, housing associations and Spring Housing Association (having a track record within the Midlands) in tackling these issues as one.

Pegasus Group’s architects, planners and designers worked alongside the partnership to develop a new space inspired by a Scandinavian approach…‘Housing plus’. This is a concept from Finland and Sweden where accommodation for vulnerable people is provided along with all other essential services in one building. This idea had a proven track record in these countries of turning people’s lives around and establishing a sense of community.

It’s not a shelter, it’s not a hostel… it’s a housing first centre.

The Fred Winter Centre

Planning Awards 2022 logo - highly commendedThe Fred Winter Furniture store has been a part of Stratford-upon-Avon for over 160 years and has become part of the fabric of the town. It was important to the team that any new scheme was not only part of the town but also that the people of Stratford felt a sense of ownership as this was such a unique centre.

Our teams worked alongside a wide range of stakeholders to develop the design collaboratively – refurbishing and repurposing the store into a new centre. The design recognises the buildings past, having been a furniture store and brings new life into its heart, retaining the vaulted ceilings and exposed metalwork. We were recently recognised for their efforts and the project ‘highly commended’ for stakeholder engagement in the recent Planning Awards 2022.

The 18,000sqft, 3 storey centre is not a shelter nor a hostel: it’s a housing first centre, catering for Stratford’s vulnerable and homeless. It not only provides accommodation for those who are homeless but also a base for a range of charities and other organisations who are then able to provide services on site. It provides people with any immediate need, e.g. mental health support, financial support and access to food via the onsite foodbank. It is also about prevention and so the centre offers additional skills training for work, whilst holding job fairs which create and develop new job opportunities. At the heart of the centre is the ‘hub’ where all the services meet with the new Portuguese café / restaurant providing a space for visitors and occupants to go whilst also providing another place where people can train in bakery and hospitality services.

Above the community hub, 15 fully-furnished apartments provide occupants with high quality, safe spaces, importantly giving them a front door key and their own address, which is crucial for building self-esteem and confidence.

A new typology

This one-stop-shop in addressing issues around homelessness is a prototype that can show how the repurposing of a listed building can bring about new life to buildings and our communities that might be overlooked. It’s aims are simple, to provide people who need the necessary immediate support, to give people the skills to find work, and finally to help prevent homelessness to those at risk.

The Fred Winter Centre opened to the public earlier this year. Please pop by and visit this new centre enjoying food and drink and show your support helping the homeless as all profits go back into helping the vulnerable, and wider community. You can also show your support by giving your time to volunteer or donate.

This article was written by Simon Kinvig, Associate Architect in our Birmingham office. For more information about the contents of this article, please contact us.