Tenants of failed Preston charity rescued

Community Gateway's headquarters on the Preston dock estate.
Community Gateway's headquarters on the Preston dock estate.

A Preston-based housing association has stepped in with the city council to secure the future of  tenants hit by the collapse of the charity Methodist Action (NW).

Community Gateway, which took over the city’s council housing stock in 2005 and now rents out more than 6,000 properties, looks set to offer scores of residents alternative accommodation as part of a rescue package.

The charity’s Fox Street Community, which looks after up to 20 homeless men in the city centre, has also been saved.

The rescue operation follows the collapse of the charity six weeks ago due to crippling debts. It was officially put into liquidation a fortnight ago amid fears its 150 tenants, some of them vulnerable, could be made homeless.

A Community Gateway spokesperson said: “We have been working with Methodist Action for some time as part of our new corporate strategy, which prioritises working with our partners to reduce homelessness.

“When we heard that Methodist Action North West had taken the decision to go into voluntary liquidation, naturally our immediate priority was to work in partnership with Preston City Council to protect the 160 plus people who became at risk of becoming homeless – either those in the Fox Street Centre, or others in private rented accommodation.

“Our main concern is to ensure continuity of service for customers. This will ensure they receive the support they require and that their diverse needs are met across the city.”

A spokesperson for Preston Council added: “The council has been working closely with Community Gateway Association on a number of issues that have arisen since the voluntary liquidation of Methodist Action North West.”

Methodist Action had its roots in the work carried out with the homless by the congregation of Preston’s Central Methodist Church in 1978.

The charity was set up in 2010 as Methodist Action (Preston in Central Lancashire) but changed its name to Methodist Action North West a year later.

In 2015 its Empty Homes programme renovated 107 properties and brought 222 bedroom spaces back into use.

But crippling debts - it lost £267,173 in 2016/17 and £398815 in 2017/18 - forced trustees to admit in August they could no longer continue and voted to put the charity into voluntary liquidation.