Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s is celebrating the official launch of its Recovery College service in Leicester.

Delivered in partnership with Leicester City Council, local businesses and the community, the St Mungo’s Recovery College offers inclusive learning, training and employment support to people recovering from homelessness.

Today, Tuesday 17 May, distinguished guests including Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, spent the afternoon visiting the newly refurbished and redeveloped service, which is based in the city’s Dawn Centre.

Since its inception in September 2019, the St Mungo’s Leicester Recovery College has supported hundreds of clients to access free courses, vocational training and vital skills as they rebuild their lives. It was briefly forced to close during the Covid-19 pandemic, and is now offering a redeveloped programme, with an increased focus on employment, gardening and maintaining work.

A team of employment specialists will now provide intensive, individual support to those facing unemployment and homelessness, and build relationships with local employers to create sustainable opportunities in line with clients’ skills and interests.

Also, thanks to generous funding from St Mungo’s corporate partner Barratt Developments, Recovery College clients can now access Putting Down Roots – St Mungo’s award-winning gardening training project, with a permanent training site located in Highfields. A gardening trainer will work alongside clients teaching them the practical horticultural skills needed to grow and maintain a wide selection of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables.

And with the support of Taylor Wimpey and Leicester City Council, a new Construction Skills programme will train and prepare Recovery College clients for finding work in the construction sector. The accredited City and Guilds Construction Skills course is an exciting expansion of St Mungo’s well-established programme in London. After completing the course, clients will have access to work placements, apprenticeships and jobs through St Mungo’s partnerships with local employers, alongside employment support and funding for tools, clothing and professional certifications.

Other courses on offer include Arts and Crafts, IT skills, Maths and English, Life Coaching, Digital Confidence and Digital Employability. Referrals to the St Mungo’s Recovery College primarily come from housing providers, job centres, hostels and supported accommodation, and homelessness service providers across the city.

Adam Rees, Service Director for the St Mungo’s Recovery College, said: “After such a challenging past two years, we’re so proud that the Leicester Recovery College is once again able to offer our clients the chance to learn, grow and be inspired.

“The relaunch is a testament to the hard work of our dedicated staff and volunteers, and the collaboration with Leicester City council and the local community. And none of this would be possible without the generosity of our donors and partnerships with Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments, whose staff volunteered so much of their time and resources to bring this to life.

“We know from Recovery College alumni that learning can be a life-changing experience that makes a real difference to people’s recovery and wellbeing. By offering a refreshed variety development opportunities, we hope to empower our clients in Leicester with confidence and skills to progress towards work.”

Councillor Elly Cutkelvin, Leicester Assistant City Mayor for Housing, said: “People who have been homeless for a long time need much more than accommodation to rebuild their lives. They also need help to obtain the skills they need to find work, manage their income, and sustain the accommodation they find. The lack of employment, education and training opportunities on offer to them makes this extremely hard.

“We’re therefore delighted that St Mungo’s chose to come to Leicester and work with us to provide this vital support. They have a wealth of skill and knowledge in this area and an excellent track record in working with people to end homelessness and rebuild lives.

“Although the Recovery College was forced to close during the pandemic, we’ve already established a fantastic partnership, which has grown to make use of our construction skills centre in Beaumont Leys, and has also won the backing of Barratt Developments who have enabled St Mungo’s garden training project to get under way in Highfields.

“We look forward to working with more local businesses and the local community, as we develop this exciting initiative.”

David Thomas, Chief Executive of Barratt Developments, said: “We are proud of our BD Living employees whose volunteering work was really useful bringing the new Recovery College to life. As the country’s largest housebuilder it is important that we support homelessness charities and our work with St Mungo’s through their innovative Putting Down Roots programme helps to do that. It will be great to now see their Leicester clients learn new gardening skills aiding their recovery.”

Anne Billson-Ross, Chair of the Taylor Wimpey Charity Committee, said: “We are delighted to be working with St Mungo’s on developing a new Construction Skills programme which will provide exciting training opportunities in a dedicated facility at the Recovery College. Our partnership further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to help bridge the skills gap within the construction industry.”