Development to support Welwyn Garden City’s homeless undergoes special ceremony


Our development in Welwyn Garden City which will provide support for people facing or experiencing homelessness has undergone a very special ceremony.

Father Norbert Fernandes, the Chair of ‘Churches in Welwyn Garden City’, conducted a land blessing ceremony at the site on Peartree Lane, praying for God’s love to be ‘known and shown’ in the completed building.

The site was originally the home of a maternity hospital before being turned into a hostel to support homeless people by charity One YMCA. However, after decades of use the hostel was no longer meeting peoples’ needs, so the charity decided to demolish it and build a brand new facility  comprising of 100 self-contained studios to support people who are struggling in their lives.

Matt Penny, Lead Chaplain at One YMCA, said given the history of the site and all the lives it had touched over the years, taking time to bless the land felt ‘very appropriate’.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from local churches including the New Zion Christian Fellowship, St Mary Magdalene’s, Our Lady Queen of Apostles, and Christchurch Baptist, as well as main contractor Kori Construction and contractor Gleeds. One YMCA accommodation staff who will work at the hostel once completed were also in attendance.

Matt said: “The ceremony is about recognition and thankfulness for all that has happened on this site and blessing it for the future. We felt this was important given its history – it’s been a maternity hospital, then our hostel, and so many things,  so much life has happened  there. As a Christian organisation it felt  right to ask for Jesus’s help and presence to be with us as we serve our community. The site sits in Father Fernandes’s parish so it was very appropriate that he led us, and to be joined by friends from our most local Church partners. It was very special to have them come and pray with us and bless the future work that will happen here.”

The ceremony lasted around 30 mins and involved readings from Scripture followed by singing and Father Fernandes blessing the site with Holy Water. Further prayers and blessings followed, and the ceremony concluded with hospitality supplied by Kori Construction.

Steve Culbert, from Kori Construction, described the ceremony as ‘moving’. He said: “I’ve never attended a land blessing before, but given the site’s history and its future use, I thought the ceremony was very appropriate and a lovely way to mark the work. With the site progressing well, One YMCA will soon be able to continue their vital work in Welwyn Garden City supporting people facing or experiencing homelessness.”

Guy Foxell, CEO of One YMCA, said “We’re truly thankful for the prayerful and practical support of our Church partners. The land blessing today is a sign of their care for people experiencing homelessness in their community and for the work we do together. We are encouraged by their prayers and look forward to seeing even more people flourish in mind, body and spirit. Our thanks to Kori Construction and Gleeds for helping make the event a success.”