Corona House has helped thousands of women over the last 30 years, but its work goes largely unrecognised. For three decades a ‘hidden gem’ has supported Cambridge women going through some of the toughest of times, but now its staff need help to turn more lives around.

Corona House is a supported housing project in West Chesterton, run by the CHS housing association. Based in a single converted house, it offers six flats for at-risk women, many of who would otherwise end up alone and on the streets. Earlier this month it celebrated its 30th anniversary, with a special party for former and current residents. As well as support sessions and activities for its residents, it runs a series of drop in sessions for the wider ‘Corona Community’, where more women can make use of its facilities. Manager Caroline Mackechnie-Jarvis said this community ethos was what made the centre so special.

She said: “We encourage the people that live here to be involved in the drop-ins. They prepare them to be part of a wider community and feel confident they can join other groups, but they still always have access to Corona House, and that sense of community they can come back to.”

Many of the centre’s residents have struggled with mental health issues, or been forced to flee abusive relationships. Deborah Latham, head of community support services at CHS, said: “There is a 70 -year-old who lived here a while ago, and still has contact with us and comes quite regularly. There have been several women who have has Cambridge University degrees, who were in a pickle, and needed help to pick them up, and one woman who was studying for a medical degree who got really ill and had a breakdown in her life. After staying here she found a place to live, and went back into her degree.”

Residents at the centre stay for up to two years, in which time they have access to their own flat and kitchen, as well as shared dining and activities rooms. A 2010 report by the Department for Work and Pensions found investment in the supported housing sector saved £3.53 billion nationwide, by intervening before vulnerable people have to turn to other services. However the work of supported housing centres like Corona House is not widely-known.

Deborah said: “This is a bit of a gem in Cambridge. There are others as well, but I think overall the supported hosuing sector is not that well-known as it needs to be. It fulfils an important role, and prevents people ending up in these other services; hospitals, A and E, police custody, or prisons.” The centre works to plug the gap for women, who can face extra stresses at mixed homeless shelters.

Caroline said: “There are three big hostels in Cambridge, but they are predominantly populated by men, who often have problems of their own, and can be abusive. If you put a woman in there who is at-risk, they are likely to be abused, and it’s probably going to make their mental illness worse. They are more likely to end up on the street, or even worse.”

While the current Government has now committed to fund supported services, places like Corona still face an uncertain future. Deborah said: “Although the Government is saying it will have this new funding regime, they big issue is it is going to reduce rents over the next three years, which takes the funds away, which is not good news. We do need public support, and we need to realise additional funding to carry on providing the service.”

Anyone interested in running activities at Corona House, or to find out more information about its services, can email