Just over four years ago arable farmer Rob Addicotte and his wife Suzanne decided to convert the old dairy on their farm to house the rural homeless. The dairy house now takes up to seven homeless people at one time from nearby Shepton Mallett, Cheddar, Frome, Wells, Glastonbury and Street. The homeless people who are housed at the farm help out around the farm.
The farm is offering a unique solution for rural homeless people. Most rural homeless had been offered accommodation in urban settings which often did not work for them. The farm allowed them to stay in a rural setting where they felt more comfortable. There is a team on the farm including a mental health nurse who all help with the homeless people’s needs.
The whole team live and work together as a big family unit. There is a condition on people staying there that they don’t use drugs at all. The farm is away from the temptations of drugs and alcohol that the homeless people may come into contact with in towns. It offers them a safe and secure place to work on their own issues.
A normal placement is for 12 weeks but people can stay longer if required. There is a therapeutic aspect to working with livestock. People don’t have the experience that farmers do of growing food and raising livestock. There is much work to be done particularly with orphan lambs. The farm is far more than merely a roof over people’s heads. It gives them the opportunity to turn their lives around.
Often people become homeless in the countryside due to relationship breakdown or substance abuse. The farm gives them the opportunity to work on the particular causes of their own homelessness.
The great uniqueness of the farm is that it is a rural solution to a rural problem. By helping people in the local area the farm has established a centre to ensure that the problem of rural homelessness is tackled. With assistance from the Duchy of Cornwall and the local Mendip authority the farm has been able to change the lives of many of the rural homeless.
It is a model that can be replicated throughout the countryside. The problem of rural homelessness is a growing problem that needs addressing. The farm shows what can be achieved with a little hard work and dedication. It provides the foot up that many homeless people need to get their lives back on track.