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The Cornwall shipping containers changing lives for the homeless

Nov 19, 2023Nov 19, 2023

But ISO Spaces, based in Truro, says Cornwall has shown no interest in their life-changing homes

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It's no secret that the UK is currently in the grip of a homeless epidemic, with Cornwall suffering as much as any area.

But one Cornish company is doing its bit to help alleviate the crisis by providing thousands of homes every year for the homeless, through the recycling of shipping containers.

Based in Truro, ISO Spaces has been finding new uses for shipping containers since it was founded by former stockbrokers Ben Treleaven and Gregg Curtis in 2013.

It now counts Nissan, the BBC, Wetherspoons and Tesco among its high-profile clients, and was recently named as one of the fastest-growing firms in the UK.

The company converts containers into trendy office spaces, pop-up bars, open air cinemas, but right now providing temporary housing for councils desperate to tackle shortages in accommodation is proving to be big business.

After converting 1,000 metal units into living spaces in 2018 alone, this year the company is looking to transform more lives by converting a further 1,000 units, rising to 2,000 in 2020.

Mr Treleaven, co-founder and managing director of ISO Spaces, said: "There is a massive housing crisis in this country. Homelessness is a real issue.

"Councils up and down the country have land which is sitting empty sometimes for years until they put homes on them.

"The councils want to provide a quick, high-quality solution to enable those families to stay in the area, as well as be more cost effective than using B&Bs.

"The containers that we design in Cornwall are used to provide an interim housing solution on a brownfield site while the council develop additional social housing.

"We can turn a site round very quickly by creating permanent but portable one, two or three bedroom houses. And the council they can literally lift houses off a site to move them somewhere else in no time at all."

ISO Spaces now has contracts with several local authorities to provide social housing units for homeless families, delivering units to councils in Ealing, Cardiff, Milton Keynes and even Dublin.

Despite the growing homeless problem in the county, so far Cornwall Council has not called upon the services of ISO Spaces.

Mr Treleaven said the company's manufacturing factory was recently moved from Par to Kent, because they couldn't get any orders from Cornwall Council.

"We ended up creating 50 to 60 jobs up in Kent, which would have stayed here if the council had put in an order with us," he said.

"We employ five graduates from Falmouth University. We could have housing designed and built by Cornish people, for Cornish people in Cornwall.

"But I feel like they kept kicking the can down the road with this."

ISO Spaces was recently named as having the tenth fastest-growing sales of all private companies in Britain, in a list compiled by Fast Track and published in The Sunday Times in December.

Last year, the young company grew sales to £5.6 million.

"We should be a flagship business for Cornwall and get some support," Mr Treleaven added. "We have paid 70% of our revenue back into Cornwall."

At least there are no plans to move the company's headquarters out of Truro.

"We are looking to keep the office here as Gregg (co-founder) and I live in Truro," Ben said. "We’ve got great office based staff here.

"We may well extend out office function at some stage, by taking an office in a location such as Kent or London.

"But the headquarters aren't going anywhere."