Bonny Downs Abbey
A Place of Community Life
The new building will provide a small number of housing units for community living above a ground floor community space. This will be used in the daytime for services to those facing homelessness or food poverty. #
We have received almost £50,000 in funding from the GLA via Community Led Housing London to develop this project and are we working with Panter Hudspith Architects on a feasibility study. These are the same architects who designed the new houses at the end of Darwell Close and Brede Close.
Our Vision Statement
Bonny Downs Abbey will be an intentional community committed to sharing life and enabling people to flourish – both residents and those in the surrounding community.
The ground floor will have community space and a chapel, with housing above. Four to six studio homes will welcome vulnerable single people, who have experienced homelessness, who will stay for an agreed period of supported tenancy. Up to three flats will enable community workers to make their home with us.
The whole community will share cooking, cleaning, and food growing. Residents will also be invited to volunteer at the daytime services for homeless people based on the ground floor, work together through NEWlife Newham gardening social enterprise, explore creativity, and to join in the rhythm of daily prayer with Bonny Downs Church. Acting as a therapeutic community, it will be a place to rebuild lives, to foster purpose and belonging.
The Abbey will be a hub for the existing partnership between Bonny Downs Baptist Church, Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA) and NEWway Project, an established charity that provides care, support and accommodation to those who find themselves homeless in our borough. This new development will be an expression of the sense of community which already exists around the building. The ‘resident’ and ‘scattered’ community will share in regular meals, daily prayer, and serving on a management committee. Governance will be modelled on participation and inclusion.
Bonny Downs Baptist Church is pioneering this innovative use of the church site to meet the needs of the neighbourhood it has been committed to for over 100 years already. Through founding BDCA it has helped to revitalise four local venues and launch activities and services that benefit 1000s of local people across the generations each year. Growing from this, NEWway has developed a holistic model of support for people experiencing homelessness. This new building will continue to embody our commitment to do life together in this place.
Our vision reflects Hebrew Scripture: Isaiah 58:12
“You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community liveable again.”
Back in 1933, members of the church crowdfunded and pooled their skills to build the single-storey church hall on the corner of Darwell Close and Flanders Road in East Ham. It has been well used and much loved by local people, but is in an extremely poor state of repair. Before it deteriorates further to become an eyesore, we want to redevelop it to create a useful and beautiful building that will benefit the community for years to come.
Our ‘intentional community’ will bring together people from different backgrounds who are committed to sharing life with and supporting one another, united by a common goal of tackling poverty. A shared kitchen and lounge will facilitate communal living, where residents will regularly prepare and eat meals together. Everyone will help maintain the house and garden together, and work/volunteer in the neighbourhood. The resident community will be supported by people from the wider community who will join in weekly meals and regular times of reflection in the chapel.
The residents will be a mix of community workers and people moving on from homelessness who have low support needs and would benefit greatly from a peaceful place to stay for 2-3 years so they can rebuild a new life.
What we expect to see
Initial plans indicate there will be an 80-seat hall on the ground floor along with a kitchen, pantry and chapel. The ground floor will be used for the NewDay centre and Food Bank will be available to hire by local people for evening/weekend activities. A lift and stairs will give access to a small number of flats and studios, with a communal lounge, kitchen and roof garden on the first floor
Benefit to the community
This will provide a particular and much-needed kind of supported housing for a number of people who have already benefited from short-term hostel/move on accommodation available in Newham but are not yet ready to manage a tenancy alone. It will provide affordable homes for community workers who are committed to the area and desire to support others in an intentional community. The ground floor will provide daytime services for homeless people and space for community building activities at evenings and weekends.
Where we are now
We have requested a pre-planning meeting based on the design so far. If this project proves to be viable, we will aim to complete it by mid/late 2024.
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