The Free Project; Opening Doors To Freedom by Emma Hammond


The free project

Title of talk:

The Free Project: Opening Doors To Freedom.

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • A bit about me
  • The background and birth of the project
  • The impact of the project
  • The good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the project
  • The end of the project
  • And what has happened since….


A few paragraphs on your subject:

The Free Project CIC (Community Interest Company) was set up by myself, Dr Craig Hammond and another director several years ago after we realised that offering soup and socks out of the back of the car on a local car park was not enough. We had a team of volunteers and we sourced a building where we could offer daily opening hours. We had food, clothes, essential items as well as staff who were there to listen and offer a friendly face.
We averaged about 50 guests over 4 days as well as serving up to 60 people on a Sunday night at our outdoor feed. The project was run on a wing and a prayer. We often had to pay the rent ourselves (that meaning from our own personal pocket) as we struggled to get any funding despite applying to many of the big funding providers. However, we managed to run for 5 years on the goodwill and generosity of the volunteers, local supporters and churches.
In Blackburn, where we ran the project, there are several privately run hostels. These establishments are run for profit and as such the welfare of the residents always seemed to take a back seat. I was incensed to hear the horror stories regarding the food and basic needs of individuals living in these places.
The project we ran was based on dignity, respect and non-judgement and as such we welcomed anyone from any background (over the age of 18) to our place. To come to sit and chat, or rest, to eat and get warm, to wash their clothes and get supplies of basics such a toilet roll and toothpaste. Unfortunately, after 5 years both volunteers and funding dried up and the project became unsustainable with 4 volunteers and no money to pay the rent and utilities. And we made the heart-breaking decision to close our doors and the outdoor Sunday night feed.

A few paragraphs about you:

I left school at 15 with no qualifications to my name. I spent a period of time living without a roof. Had my first son at 18 and then 3 children in quick succession! Following a failed first marriage and several years as a single parent I trained as a probation officer managing to get a degree in criminal justice!!!.
I have also spent 20 years in the voluntary sector in one way or another, working with families and individuals with a range of complex needs. I am a Mum and a step mum. I’m also a Grandma to 5 (soon to be 6). 2 of the boys live with us fulltime so we are doing the little one parenting all over again! I am very happily Married to Dr Craig Hammond. I’m currently volunteering for a project working with sex offenders in the community. Oh, and I also take in ironing to pay for the many social clubs our grandson attends!

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?

Old project Facebook page:

This event took place on the 3rd of April 2019 at Gulliver’s (109 Oldham Street, Manchester, M4 1LW)