Belle Vue Sales Manager steps in to save hostel from closure

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Damian Ditchfield, Sales Manager at Belle Vue Manchester and his friend, Ken Jackson are the toast of a charity after they sprang into action to save a local hostel for homeless men from closure.

Ken Jackson, left, with Damian Ditchfield

Manchester charity Supporting People in Need has provided dormitory accommodation for rough sleepers at a former Baptist Church since opening its doors in 2014. In addition to shelter and food, the charity provides training and support to help its residents rebuild their lives.

When the pandemic struck, SPIN was told by Manchester City Council officials each resident had to have their own living space due to the need for social distancing.

The charity’s Operations Manager Tom Herstell, whose father and uncle founded SPIN, said the organisation was told that council funding would cease unless it could comply. That would have forced the closure of the hostel, which is called The Well.

That’s when Belle Vue’s Damian Ditchfield, 53, stepped in with his friend Ken Jackson, 70, a retired building site manager and qualified joiner.

The kind-hearted duo voluntarily set about converting the open space in the church hall into 19 separate timber-framed bedrooms, enabling SPIN to survive with a clean bill of health.

Ken called on building trade contacts who gave materials free of charge for the seven-week project.

Damian, who was on furlough leave from his job, made a 50-mile round trip to The Well every day from his home in West Yorkshire.

He said: “Ken is good friends with Diane Lawler, who was working at The Well as a manager, and he had done a couple of jobs for her in the past. It was following a conversation between them that the mission was launched.

“When Ken heard about the charity’s plight, he didn’t want to ignore it. His previous experience meant he had the expertise to do the work and I offered my support so he was assured of meeting the deadline set by the council.

“We did all the joinery and plastering and were very grateful to Irmass Co timber merchants in Trafford Park and P&L Joinery in Stockport for supplying materials at no cost.

“Without their generosity, the project would have been unaffordable for SPIN.

“A qualified electrician took care of the electrics, and we did everything else. As well as the new bedrooms, we also built a new food storage area and offices with a mezzanine floor which is used as a training area.

“It was an absolute pleasure to be involved. It was good for my soul. We spend our lives taking, and it was great to give back to society. The people at SPIN really appreciated it.”