In 1973, a number of people in Taunton began to notice an increase in squatting and a rise in the number of people sleeping rough. As there were no organised hostels in the area, they planned to open a hostel for those who found themselves homeless and set up Taunton Association for the Homeless (TAH). From these small beginnings, TAH has become one of the largest providers of specialist housing for single homeless people in the South West.
The first hostel opened in 1976, in a converted corner shop in William Street, bought and refurbished by Somerset County Council before being leased to TAH. At that time the residents of this 8-bed hostel (later to become 10 beds) were mostly middle aged men who had been sleeping rough in the area for some time or who travelled from town to town seeking shelter wherever it was available.
In 1980, TAH began to manage a 12-bed night shelter in a leased property in Hamilton Road. Then, as more accommodation was still needed, in 1983 TAH took on a lease from Taunton Deane Borough Council of a property on East Reach which became a 20 bed hostel known as Lindley House, after Mary Lindley, the daughter of Alexander, Lord Elibank, who had lived locally in the 1850s.
In 1988, Lindley House was extended by a further 6 bedspaces. By that time, TAH had started to widen its services, becoming an organisation that, more than simply housing people, worked with them to improve their life skills and general wellbeing and to help them successfully move to more independent accommodation.
By 1989, TAH was managing 26 hostel beds at Lindley House, 10 hostel beds at William Street and 12 Night Shelter beds as well as 12 rooms in 3 shared houses owned by the council.
In 1991 the association began a major fund-raising campaign under the banner “Charity Begins at Home”, aiming to raise £160,000 to purchase and refurbish the Night Shelter which had closed due to a lack of funding. In 1992, the appeal having succeeded, the building was re-opened as East Cottage, a 9 bed hostel for young people under 25.
In 1993 Lindley House was further extended, following the purchase of two adjoining houses by a large housing association, who then leased them to TAH. As a result, the hostel increased to 36 single rooms. In the same year, TAH purchased a property in Alfred Street, behind Lindley House, to use as a Head Office.
In 2002, Lindley House was extended by a further 9 beds and, in March 2006, TAH agreed East Cottage should be renamed Norie House after James Norie (Jimbo), an ex-tenant who had died shortly after leaving a TAH project - the Norie family continue to be involved with the association.
In the years leading up to 2008, TAH continued, slowly and carefully, to expand its services and its property base. In 2008, Norie House closed down for refurbishment and was re-opened with 13 bedspaces aimed specifically at single people who were rough sleeping.
In 2009, TAH took on a ten year lease of a privately-owned property in Upper High Street, central Taunton. The property provides two one-bedroom flats and two three-bedroom flats - eight bedspaces in total.
Also in 2009, the association purchased The Victoria Inn - an empty local pub - and began to convert the premises into a new Head Office, a meeting space for local businesses and community groups and a high quality cafe, serving the public but staffed mostly by homeless or ex-homeless people.
Both the new offices and the cafe - named The Old Vic Cafe - opened in 2010 as did the Alfred House Training Centre, in TAH's former Head Office, where residents can take courses in literacy numeracy, IT skills, painting & decorating etc.
Also in 2010, TAH began a new venture - the SmartMove Scheme, part of the Crisis SmartMove network that has worked with private landlords across the country since 1997. SmartMove offers private landlords a written guarantee (the bond) in place of a rent deposit and works with both landlords and tenants to ensure tenancies succeed. The scheme, which operates across Taunton Deane and Sedgemoor, represents TAH's first work outside Taunton.
In April 2011, TAH won a competetive tender and took on the support service at Dampiet House in Bridgwater - a 12 bed project providing supported housing for the single homeless and TAH's first accommodation-based service outside Taunton.
Unfortunately, TAH's Old Vic Cafe had to close on 21st December 2011. Although a huge success in some areas (providing thousands of hours of training and work experience opportunities for homeless people) the cafe was losing money and, given the other financial pressures faced by TAH, that could not be allowed to continue.
By 2012, TAH was managing the Alfred House Training Centre, the SmartMove scheme and 127 bedspaces of supported housing:-
• 45 hostel bedspaces at Lindley House
• 6 hostel bedspaces and 7 self contained bedsits at Norie House
• 10 bedspaces in a project for young people in Herbert Street
• 9 move-on rooms in William Street for young people
• 12 bedspaces at Dampiet House in Bridgwater
• 38 move-on rooms in 6 street properties