A former insurance office has been transformed into an internet café by day and a safe haven for revellers by night.
The joint project run by Bolton Steps and Street Angels is the first to get off the ground under Bolton Council’s empty town centre shops initiative.
Charities and community groups were invited last year to apply for a grant to help them take over vacant units in a bid to boost the town.
The groups teamed together and successfully bid for £8,000, which has helped them renovate and equip the shop located at 91 Bradshawgate, Bolton.
The project was officially launched today (Friday June 11) by Councillor Ismail Ibrahim, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Development and Regeneration.
Councillor Ibrahim said: “Two very worthwhile projects have benefitted from the grant and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to help them. The shop’s been empty for more than a year and it’s fantastic to see it back in use again. We’re hoping to have other schemes come to life in the near future but grants are still available and I’d urge people to get in touch to find out more.”
Bolton Steps, a local community mental health charity, is using the shop during the day for their new project, an internet café staffed by young people.
Shoppers can drop in during the day to surf online, whilst having a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. The group will also offer basic IT training, and advice and support to the community.
Ruth Haigh, Bolton Steps project manager, said: “Having an opportunity of a shop front will not only offer a great new service to the community but also help promote the overall work of Bolton Steps, and support the work of all projects that we run from the Victoria Hall.”
Street Angels have relocated their night café, which provides a safe haven for people who get into difficulties on a night out, from the Bank Street Unitarian Chapel to Bradshawgate. The café is a place for people to go to if they become stranded, hurt or unwell, or just need a quiet place to sober up.
The Angels hope the more central venue will enable them to help more people and attract more volunteers.
Street Angels’ volunteer co-ordinator Clare Gore said: “We’re really excited about the new shop and grateful for the support we’ve received to get it. This is the next step in what has been a very rewarding project. People are used to seeing the Street Angels out and about and asking them for help. Now they have a place to come to, if they need help, that is easy to find.”
The internet café will be open Monday to Friday, from 10am till 3pm. The Street Angels will be there on Saturday nights from 10pm until 3am.
The groups have also benefitted from a ‘meanwhile’ lease which they have negotiated with the landlord. This type of lease enables local groups to temporarily use a vacant property rent free or for a very small charge, with the understanding that landlords can continue to look for a commercial rent on the property.
Landlords also benefit as they do not have to pay empty property rates if the premises is occupied.
Bolton Steps is a community mental health charity and social enterprise, which tackles social exclusion. Their aim is to offer training and work placements to anyone with a mental health issues to help them to move forward and re-enter the employment market or return into the community.
Bolton Street Angels work in and amongst the night time economy helping anyone who has made themselves vulnerable through drink. They work with door staff and Greater Manchester Police to identify individuals in the town centre who may benefit from the use of the safe haven.