A state-of-the-art homeless centre on the Wirral welcomed a very special visitor today as Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal officially reopened the facility, 18 years after opening the original site.
Mary Cole House, which is operated by Wirral Churches’ Ark Project - a homeless prevention, support and accommodation service, has undergone a multi-million-pound renovation project designed to ensure it can offer enhanced accommodation and support to people who face homelessness in the local area.
The renovation project was funded by Homes England and Wirral Council and project managed by Magenta Living, Wirral’s biggest provider of social housing, on behalf of Wirral Ark. The renovations included a part demolition and refurbishment of the existing Birkenhead-based building with a wraparound new build extension.
Originally launched by Wirral Ark in 2001, when it was opened by HRH The Princess Royal, Mary Cole House was funded through National Lottery Charity funding and donations from local businesses.
On her return to the newly renovated centre, HRH The Princess Royal, was welcomed by Wirral Ark’s Chair, Father Robert Nelson MBE and Chief Executive, Aydin Djemal who took the royal visitor on a tour of the accommodation and facilities at Mary Cole House. The centre provides accommodation for up to 27 people and comprises a kitchen/dining room, a lounge, training room, chapel and communal garden.
During the tour, HRH The Princess Royal spoke to staff, who provide a range of support services at Mary Cole House, including palliative care, a nurse drop-in service for homeless people and a ‘controlled drinking environment’ which provides a safe place for those who would otherwise be drinking on the streets.
HRH The Princess Royal was also given the opportunity to meet some of the people who use Mary Cole House and to hear their personal experiences of how the centre had provided them with a vital source of shelter and support, before unveiling an official plaque to mark the reopening of Mary Cole House.
Commenting on the visit, Aydin Djemal, Chief Executive of Wirral Ark said, “We were honoured to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to officially re-open Mary Cole House, particularly given her long association with our facility. We were exceedingly proud to be able to showcase our newly enhanced building and accommodation to our very special guest and to give both our staff and some of the people who benefit from Mary Cole House the chance to meet HRH The Princess Royal and share their experiences with her.”
Paul Anson, Director of Business Growth at Magenta Living who was also introduced to HRH The Princess Royal at the event said, “This was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate to HRH The Princess Royal the outstanding work that Wirral Ark deliver for homeless people in our communities and to show the level of investment that has gone into ensuring the accommodation and facilities on offer at Mary Cole House are the very best they can be.”
Also in attendance at the event were a host of VIPs including the leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Pat Hackett; Chairman of Wirral Ark, Father Robert Nelson MBE; the Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Tony Smith; the Mayoress of Wirral, Mrs Barbara Smith; Chief Executive of Wirral Council, Eric Robinson and Assistant Director of Development, Steven Eaves at Magenta Living.