Julian House Bike Workshop started life almost 10 years ago as a regular series of bicycle-related activities to improve the wellbeing and independence of service users at Julian House. Bike maintenance workshops appeared alongside sports, cookery and other classes as part of the Meaningful Occupation programme. Through this programme, people who had been homelessness were able to improve their skills and build their confidence. Service users worked on abandoned bikes that had been donated to Julian House; restoring them week-by-week into fully functioning machines. The added bonus of the bicycle maintenance class was that at the end, you could keep the bike that you’d built! This access to free transport proved to be a significant incentive, making the workshops reliably popular amongst service users.
Meaningful Occupation continues to be an important part of life for Julian House service users and the bicycle repair classes have taken on a life of their own. In 2010, the workshops moved from the variable weather of the Julian House courtyard to a warehouse space on Corn Street, Bath. The new location brought a new burst of enthusiasm from service users and from staff and it was decided to expand the operation and make the classes into a competitive social enterprise business. The new workshop continued to collect second hand tools and donated bikes, but now actively looked to sell second-hand bikes and servicing to local cyclists. This in turn meant that service users could put their skills into practice in a real business setting, making the workshop excellent preparation for a move-on into employment.
Growth and success
The social enterprise workshop was a hit with customers and has expanded alongside Julian House’s other services. There are now Julian House Bike Workshops operating in Bath, Trowbridge, Exeter and Bristol, all providing opportunities for people dealing with addiction, homelessness, domestic violence, criminal convictions and mental health issues to get a positive lift into independence, learning and employment.