Shelter for homeless people in Worcester has increased massively in the last few years thanks to Worcester Municipal Charities.

Four years ago the charities organisation owned precisely no accommodation for the homeless.

In 2018, it will provide 37 flats for people with nowhere else to go, and it’s looking at increasing that number to 68 the year after that.

Possibly strangely, it all came about because of tougher economic conditions - Paul Griffiths, chairman of the organisation which comprises about 40 charities, many dating back hundreds of years, said: “In  2013 year the High Street recession had meant that a number of the Charity’s shop tenants were having difficulty paying their rents. The trustees responded to the problem by asking the tenants to surrender the empty rooms over the shops, reduced their rents accordingly, and created its first 6 flats for the homeless - necessity was the mother of invention.”

While the charity still owns 32 historic retirement almshouses around the city it decided that Worcester was relatively well placed for housing for older people, and it decided to invest in housing rather than shops and offices.

A city centre office was converted into six flat in 2014, then over the next two years some of the charity’s properties in Worcester and Hereford were sold and the money has been used to fund apartments, as well as grants form the government Homes and Communities agency (HCA)

Mr Griffiths added: “By late 2017 the conversion of 3 buildings into 15 units of accommodation for the homeless and the MAGGS clothing store for street sleepers, with two flats “over the shop” was completed.”

And there are more to come.

Mr Griffiths added: “In 2018 a further 10 flats which are being constructed presently, will take the total of new flats created since 2013 to 37.

Taking comfort from the successes to date, the trustees are now seriously considering creating a further 25 such flats in two buildings in 2018/2019 subject to planning consents and grants from the HCA.

MP Robin Walker said:“I was very happy to open the new Maggs Clothing Project last Friday and to see the accommodation that has been created there. I have long advocated for more attention to be paid to ‘living above the shop’ as we have so much space available for this in Worcester, and so it is great to see this becoming a reality thanks to the efforts of Worcester Municipal Charities, WHABAC (Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre) and MAGGS.

“I commend the vital work these three charities do locally to support those unfortunate enough to have faced homelessness and help people to move on into affordable and secure accommodation. I look forward to seeing the newly built properties in Lowesmoor when they are completed next year. I will certainly be supporting any further bids to the Homes and Communities Agency that will enable expansion of this project and provide more secure housing in Worcester for those most in need.”