After 5 months of knocking down walls, laying pipes, building partitions and generally creating lots of dust, the building work at CENS is finally nearing completion. Marina Woodrow managed to grab 5 minutes with Justin Peacock, the site foreman, before he left the building and hung up his hard hat. Here he reveals the huge challenges they faced, what inspired them to keep going and how the work they carried out will benefit the homeless.

Marina: Could you please explain your initial thoughts when you first arrived at the Shelter and saw the architect plans for the building?

Justin: My initial impression was that the building was a rabbit warren with so many floors and staircases – it was difficult to envisage how everything was going to fit in. Also working out all the drainage and pipework was at the forefront of my mind.

Marina: What was the most challenging part of the conversion?

Justin: Definitely the chimney props when we had to carry out structural work, as they were floor-to-floor. It was messy work in a confined space. Also, laying all the pipework for the new ensuites, as the original building was not designed to have that many bathrooms.

Marina: What was the most rewarding part of this contract?

Justin: I genuinely believe in the cause and the work that CENS does, and so we all did our best to finish on time and to ensure the work was top quality. The building is a lifeline and a home for vulnerable people, so everything was done with that in mind. Seeing it all come together at the end was so rewarding and it’s good to know the shelter will be helping people again soon.

Marina: Has it been difficult to carry out such a huge conversion during COVID?

Justin: It has all gone pretty smoothly. Pickfords put in strict COVID restrictions with regards to face coverings and hand sanitising. Also we distanced as far as possible, minimising contact between everyone on site.

Marina: What do you think about the work that has been carried out and how it will benefit the homeless?

Justin: I think that giving residents their own shower rooms is excellent as it gives them dignity and privacy. These people are already facing issues with their housing, so why not make it as comfortable as possible to enable them to focus on their future and building themselves back up.

Marina: Last question, and this is all about you…what do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you are not converting a much-needed homeless shelter?

Justin: I enjoy riding my motorbike and walking my lovely dog, Ruby. I also like eating out and am looking forward to being able to do that once restrictions lift. in-between that, I am actually renovating my own home!

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