Our Christmas appeal was a great success with more hats, gloves, toiletries, food and money donated than in any previous year. This has meant that no one has had to go without a woolly hat or a pair of gloves during what has been one of the coldest winters for years. We were also able to get everyone sleeping rough into special emergency accommodation during the very cold spells. We now have a store of socks and toiletries so everyone who comes to the centre is offered a pack of the essentials, which ensures that they can keep themselves clean.
Drama at the Royal Exchange
We have just started an exciting new three-year partnership with the Royal Exchange Theatre which will give homeless people the opportunity to see plays at the theatre, gain work experience behind the scenes and build up their skills through weekly drama workshops. Two short collaborations we have run in the past showed that drama is a great way of helping people to increase their confidence, presentation skills and to get people working together in a really enjoyable way. People get a real buzz out of performing, especially in a professional theatre, and it gives them the opportunity to let the public see their talents and hear what they have to say. We'll update our website with details about public performances by the group, but if you would like to be kept in the loop you can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates.
We have been awarded a £500,000 grant from the National Lottery, which will enable us to build on and improve our activities programme and enable us to get more people qualifications and help more people to move on to employment, education, training or voluntary work in the community. This grant secures the wages for two workers for 5 years plus it will pay for some of our activities and helps with some of the Centre’s running costs. This is great news, particularly at a time when some of our other funding, which comes from Manchester City Council has still not been confirmed. This funding will also ensure that donations we receive from individuals, schools and other organisations can go directly to helping homeless people and will not have to be used to fund administration or the salaries of our project workers.
Turning empty flats into homes
When people have lived on the streets and then spent between 6 months and 2 years in hostels they are so excited when they finally get an offer of a flat. However, very often this is just the beginning of a very hard journey to try and make this empty flat into a real home. Some people (but not everyone) are able to apply for a Community Care Grant from the Job Centre to help pay for some essential items of furniture like a bed. However, usually a chair, table, fridge or carpets are not considered essentials and certainly a TV, even a second hand one, would not be paid for.
After a long time living communally both on the streets and in hostels it is very lonely to be on your own without even a radio to break the silence. For some people it is too much and they end up inviting people back to their flats and very soon they have complaints from neighbours about the noise, and are evicted back onto the streets with little prospect of being offered a flat again in the future. This is a hugely damaging process for the individual, who feels like a failure all over again.
This is the cycle of homelessness that we try and break by giving people as much support as possible when they get a new flat and by getting them involved in positive activities at the Centre to build up their social networks and coping skills. We know that if we can help someone get a job as well as a flat then they are much less likely to ever become homeless again.
Sponsor a new home
We have recently launched a fund to tackle this problem in a really practical and positive way. This new fund will be used to buy furniture, carpets, bedding, cookers, pots and pans for people moving into new flats. It is being kick started by the Booth Centre’s Co-ordinator, Amanda Croome, who will be running the Manchester Bupa 10K run in May, and she is inviting anyone else who is doing the run (or the Wilmslow ½ Marathon or any other running events) to join her in setting up a sponsorship page on our JustGiving site to raise funds to support this initiative.
We hope to raise enough money to ensure that every person who we help to get a flat is provided with the practical things they need (as well as the support) to make a real home and have a fresh start.
If anyone would like to help by donating furniture they can do this by contacting the Mustard Tree – they have a great furniture warehouse where we take people to buy the things they need at very low cost.
If you would like to sponsor Amanda, you can do so via her JustGiving page.
Thank you for all your support - it is helping to transform the lives of homeless people.