Our wonderful Head of Wellbeing Miranda recently took on a mammoth trek around the Isle of Wight in support of the Booth Centre. In this blog, she tells us all about how it went and why she chose this particular challenge...
The Booth Centre and wellbeing
At the Booth Centre, I am involved with planning and providing activities that support wellbeing alongside physical and mental good health. Our wonderful team offer a wide range of opportunities for the people that come to the Booth Centre to improve their wellbeing – from creative art-based activities to gardening and bowls. We also have partners such as CGL (Change Grow Learn) who provide expert support to tackle mental ill-health as well as wellbeing and substance misuse support.
Wellbeing and the great outdoors
Working for an organisation that focuses on wellbeing and good mental health helps me to reflect and plan how to keep myself well. I love being outside and feel very lucky to live in Salford which is full of canals and parks and work at the Booth Centre with its lovely garden. After the travel restrictions of COVID-19 and not being to get out and about I was hoping to have a change of scenery this year – to experience a new landscape which I knew would benefit my own mental health. So, turning 50 this year I decided to sign up for an outdoors event – as this would motivate me to get fit with some regular training walks and explore my local area a bit more.
The Isle of Wight Challenge
I decided to do the Isle of Wight Action Challenge – as a coastal walk I felt this variety of landscape was what I was looking for, and at the beginning of May the wildflowers and birds would provide some welcome distraction from achy feet! The challenge is 106km in total so would include walking time through the night – as I haven’t done this before this felt exciting. As an organised walk, I also knew there would be advice and help – and importantly food and refreshments – throughout, and a marked out route which is much easier to follow.
I decided to do the event as a fundraiser as part of my half-decade celebrations. There are lots of brilliant charities and causes to raise money for – for me the Booth Centre made sense. I am lucky enough to be able to see the impact that our services make for people living in Greater Manchester, from our exciting activities programme through to using our free café for a tasty meal there are many ways that the Booth Centre supports our community to improve their wellbeing and physical health. As a local charity, based in Manchester it also felt important to me to raise money that benefits people where I live and work.
The challenge and being part of a team
The Isle of Wight Ultra Challenge took place on April 30. We set off at 7am with a plan to complete the 106km loop of the island within the next 36 hours. An important factor for me in doing the challenge was completing the route with two friends. Helping create social connections and having friendly and supportive conversations is a big part of what we do at the Booth Centre. The importance of having a friendly face around, and collaboration is something that I love to have in my personal life too – the help of family and friends helps me maintain good mental health. I was thrilled to complete my challenge with my two friends, Fiona and Jo. Together on the day we combined looking at the scenery as we walked, chatting and walking in companionable silence. We supported each other when the going got tough. We worked as a team to get around – and the wider team was all the kind people who sponsored me and motivated me with friendly encouragement and support, whilst raising much-needed funding at the same time.
After walking (with some resting and lots of eating along the way!) for 28 hours we completed our 106 km. I am so delighted and feel very lucky to have visited such a beautiful place, as well as spending time with friends. So far I have raised over £1300 for the Booth Centre and it is a big boost to know that this will support the centre’s work in improving wellbeing, whilst I have improved my own by carrying out the event.
You can still sponsor me here or contact our amazing fundraising team for support to complete your own challenge – I definitely recommend it!
Open from Saturday 2nd April, Room To Breathe is a new dedicated space for mindfulness at Manchester Art Gallery (MAG).
It offers you room to rest, recover and breathe with just one or two art works. Room To Breathe explores how to improve our wellbeing using mindfulness. It is free to visit for all.
The Booth Centre has been working with community artists interference-art in our art sessions over the last few months. Interference-art have brought together participants’ artwork and words into four collaborative art prints and ‘The Breath Book’ - a mini book. Together they feature our favourite ways to make ‘room to breathe’ every day, outside of the art gallery.
The collaborative art prints will be on display for a few months in a new community space off the Room to Breathe gallery room. A limited run of free printed copies of ‘The Breath Book’ will be available for visitors to take away and be inspired by the Booth Centre community long after the display finishes. When the temporary display finishes, the art prints will come home to the Booth Centre.
For more information about Room To Breathe at Manchester Art Gallery:
Follow @interferenceart or find out more about their work:
A message from Elena Fowler, Chair of Booth Centre's Board of Trustees:
'I am delighted to announce that following a detailed and demanding recruitment process through partnership working with people accessing the Booth Centre, Paul Newcombe will be joining the team as our new CEO. Paul has a wealth of experience in the sector, and I am confident he will lead the Centre in exciting new ways during this next phase of our development.
I'd like to thank Kate McSweeney, our current Acting CEO and the Leadership Team for their commitment and success during the interim, and I know they will work closely with Paul once he has started.'
Chair of Trustees
Kate McSweeney, Acting CEO, added:
'I look forward to welcoming Paul to the Centre and to working with him to further develop the great work and the direction of the Booth Centre going forward.'
Paul, currently ABEN Coordinator in the Homelessness Directorate at Manchester City Council, will join the Booth Centre team in March, and added:
'I'm thrilled to be taking on this leadership role with a fantastic organisation. I want to use my skills and experience to support staff to do the best job they can and make a real difference for those who visit the centre. My focus will be to build on the great work and outcomes currently delivered at the centre and further enhance its strong reputation in the sector.'
A very happy new year from all of us at the Booth Centre!
We’d like to wish our visitors, staff, supporters, volunteers, partners a very happy new year. Thank you all for your support during 2021, it was a tough year but knowing our community was there for us made all the difference. Here's to a better 2022!
Our week of Christmas celebrations was able to go ahead (albeit with extra measures in place to ensure we could welcome people safely).
Throughout the week we had Christmas dinners, art activities, visits from Santa, presents, Christmas quizzes and more. It is a real privilege to be able to spend this time of year with our visitors and create possibilities for togetherness and festive cheer.
We went into the new year remaining open and offering breakfasts, hot lunches and a support hub, running a slightly reduced service taking into account new government guidance.
Thank you for helping us create new chances!
Our Big Give Christmas Challenge was a huge success, raising an amazing £44,565 including Gift Aid! Your donations are making a huge difference to the lives of our visitors, from helping people move into a safe home, to securing employment, to taking part in activities or volunteering.
You can read more about how these funds are helping here.
Thank you so much to everyone who gave to our Big Give Christmas Challenge, set up a regular gift, donated essential items or supported us in any way over the festive season. Your support means so much to everyone here at the Booth Centre.
The winter of 1990-91 was very severe and, with an estimated 150 people sleeping rough in Manchester, volunteers from Lifeshare responded and opened two night shelters at the Methodist Central Hall and the Church of the Ascension in Hulme. Again, very quickly it became obvious that this also wasn’t what people wanted or needed. They were glad to have the opportunity to come off the streets but people wanted their own homes and support to address their problems, rather than a mattress on a church floor.
By 1994 people were telling us that they wanted much more than soup runs. They wanted to take more control over their lives. We took a group of people to London to visit the Big Issue, which had just started, and came back and wrote a Manchester supplement and the Big Issue in the North was born. People were requesting a place where they could get support during the day and more activities to get involved with. Lifeshare wrote to the City Council and to the Church of England to request some land to put a portacabin on. The Council never replied but Ken Riley, the Dean of Manchester Cathedral offered their brass rubbing room. Within 6 months an application was made to English Heritage to put a new door into the Cathedral from Victoria Street, a grant was obtained from the Booth Charities (set up by Humphrey Booth in the 17th century to help poor people of Salford), giving the Booth Centre its name, and the room was converted to include an office, toilet and tea bar, and the Centre opened with a co-ordinator and 6 volunteers on 1st May 1995.
The official opening of the Centre dedicated it to the memory of Mick Leddy and Peter Ryan who had lived on the streets for many years and had died prematurely. The vision was that everyone should have the opportunity to have their own home and good quality of life. The Centre was based on several key principles; firstly, that everyone should have access to good quality advice, so that they can make decisions and take control of their lives, secondly that the Centre should be shaped and delivered with people who use the service and thirdly that everyone needs a purpose in life and that people who are homeless should have the opportunity to take part in activities that are creative, fun and interesting. So, our strapline in 1995 was “drop-in for advice, activities and support”, our logo was a person parachuting and we offered sandwiches and an advice service each morning and ran drama, singing, creative writing, art and circus skills sessions each afternoon. Billy Kennedy, who lived at Mary and Joseph House, arrived the day before we opened and told us he would sweep the floor. He was the first of hundreds of people who came to the Booth Centre for support and ended up helping to run the Centre.
In 1997 the Booth Centre’s registration with the Charity Commission was approved and it became an independent charity with a board of trustees, chaired by Philip Knowles and including the Dean of the Cathedral. It was also the year the Centre employed its second worker and developed more activities including regular outdoor pursuit residentials, giving people the opportunity to try new things outside the city. Later this developed into conservation work, an allotment project and a gardening social enterprise which we ran for a few years before it was taken over by our trainees as an independent concern.
The Centre teamed up with Business in the Community to start a job club and over the last 25 years helped hundreds of people who were or had been homeless get into work. This included employing people at the Centre who were homeless and enabling them to secure and maintain a home through the confidence and skills they gained by working at the Centre.
In 1994 with the expansion of the European Union we began to see people who had come to the UK to get work but who, for various reasons, had become homeless and destitute. We set up a reconnection service to help those who wanted to return home and a support service to help others to get into work and secure accommodation. This was the start of our EU Homeless Prevention Service, which over the last 15 years has ensured that Manchester doesn’t have the problems of cities like London where over 40% of people on the streets are European Nationals (Manchester it is less than 2%). Our EU Homeless Prevention Partnership won a Spirit of Manchester Award in 2021.
Over the last 26 years, the Booth Centre’s arts programme has opened up new interests and experiences to more than a thousand people. It has enabled people at the Centre to, amongst many other things, perform at the Royal Exchange Theatre, The Bridgewater Hall, and The Royal Opera House in London and to stage exhibitions at the Whitworth Art Gallery and the People’s History Museum. We have also taken people to Brazil and Lithuania to exhibit their work and make international links. We have worked with fantastic partners in the arts sector including The Edge Theatre, Streetwise Opera and arthur + martha and have won a number of arts awards. It is one of the many things that makes the Booth Centre a very special and creative place.
The pioneering work of the Centre and the dedication of volunteers, most of whom have experienced homelessness, was recognised in 2015 when we won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and in 2018 when we won the Homeless Link National Excellence award for Co-production.
In 2020 as COVID-19 was emerging we met with people at the Centre to redesign our service to ensure that we could stay open throughout the pandemic and that people were able to get off the streets and look after their mental health by having access to a range of activities which helped them to stay safe and accommodated. We also achieved our aim of delivering Emergency Accommodation Standards in Manchester, through our work with the City Council and all our other partners, which ensures people no longer have to stay in night shelters but have single room accommodation with support.
We have not yet eradicated rough sleeping but the services that exist in 2021 are significantly better than they were in 1991. The launch of the Manchester Homeless Partnership in 2017, which the Booth Centre played a leading role in, has brought together the voluntary and statutory services with the faith-based sector, businesses and people who are homeless to ensure that we have a joined-up approach to ending homelessness in Manchester.
People know that the Booth Centre never gives up on anyone and won’t give up on them - quite uniquely people aren’t barred from the Centre but we work with people to ensure that they can attend safely.
Fundamentally the Booth Centre is a family and is described by most people who visit as a safe place where they feel welcomed and where they matter as an individual. This is shown very strongly each year when we hold a memorial service and come together as a community to remember friends from the Centre who have passed away. It’s a Booth Centre family event, people write and perform songs and poetry and we ensure that people who have attended the Centre are important and won’t be forgotten.
Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving the Booth Centre and a new CEO will be recruited to help guide the Booth Centre on the next stage of its journey. I do not doubt that it will continue to develop new and innovative ways to try and achieve its mission of ensuring that everyone has a secure home and a good quality of life. I’m sure that the new CEO will find it a life-changing experience, just as I and most of the people who visit, volunteer or work at the Centre have done.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Centre over the last quarter-century - you’ve helped to create a very unique and special place.
As cold weather approaches, Manchester City Council and other members of the Manchester Homelessness Partnership have been working together to ensure the right support is in place to help people sleeping rough off the streets this winter.
Every year during the colder winter months, the council expands its accommodation provision with additional help for people sleeping rough over and above the year-round services that are always available. Extra provision is initiated when the temperature is forecast to drop below freezing, as more people are likely to engage with services and come inside due to the life-threatening temperatures.
Learning from the experience during the pandemic, which included the success of bringing people into safe spaces for longer, the council will be offering Covid-safe accommodation with the focus on individuals accessing extensive support services to help them rebuild their lives until they can be moved on to more permanent accommodation.
Building on that success, this year, the council’s extended accommodation offer will run throughout the winter months from early December to 31 March and will include space for 50 individuals with en-suite rooms in an ex-hotel, outside the city centre. These bed spaces will be targeted for people who have been identified by partners and outreach teams as having high priority need and who have been on the streets for a long time and meet the criteria as set by the Homelessness Partnership. The Booth Centre will run the daytime Referral Hub to give easy access to the accommodation.
In addition to this, there will be 50 bed spaces provided in a hotel close to the city centre. These bed spaces will only be activated during prolonged cold weather, when the temperature is forecast to drop below zero, and will offer secure and Covid-safe spaces with support services in place to help people until they can move into more permanent accommodation.
To enable the city’s winter plans to run smoothly, additional support has come through successful partner bids to Homeless Link’s Winter Transformation fund. This £85,342 will fund a full-time Cold Weather Support Co-Ordinator working for Barnabus charity, one of the members of the Homelessness Partnership, who will help coordinate the winter provision. It will also fund a part-time worker at Centrepoint, a Mental Health worker, and will fund specialist support from MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health), On the Out, and the Boaz Trust. The Council will also receive funding from central government through the Rough Sleeper Initiative scheme and the Winter Pressures Fund.
In addition to the enhanced offer in winter the council also has access to 186 - A Bed Every Night - spaces jointly funded by Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, plus 30 additional spaces in a hotel in Fallowfield which is now an annual council scheme for people sleeping rough. (Both schemes have also had funding through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Rough Sleeper Initiative).
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, deputy leader of Manchester City Council said:
“Our preparations this year have taken on board lessons from during the pandemic how we and our partners helped support people who had been sleeping rough into accommodation.
“We understand that as the weather gets colder more people are likely to accept help and want to come inside out of the cold. That is why there is additional emergency provision, and why we must focus our resources on the people who most need our help.
“They are often the most difficult people to reach and our experience shows that if we, along with the help of the partnership, can help them to balance their lives by keeping them in accommodation for that little bit longer, we are more likely to get them to engage with the services that they need to help them to gain the confidence and the ability to move forward to a better and hopefully more stable way of life.”
Amanda Croome from the Booth Centre, one of the organisations involved the Manchester Homelessness Partnership said:
"As a city, we work together to try and ensure that no one needs to sleep rough. We work as a partnership to ensure we have an overarching city approach so that services complement each other without duplication so people don't fall through the net. We have had the help of people who are homeless in designing the new service and they will also be involved in delivering (through our supported volunteering programme) and reviewing it, to ensure that we have the right service to get the best outcomes for people."
The city's cold weather response is being delivered through an expansive public, voluntary and community/charity sector partnership involving Barnabus, the Booth Centre, Coffee 4 Craig, Centrepoint, The Men's Room, On the Out, Reach Out to the Community, MASH, Shelter, Boaz Trust, Greater Manchester Mental Health Services, Urban Village Medical Practice, Street Engagement Hub, Caritas, Greater Manchester Police alongside the council.
Anyone who is worried about someone sleeping rough can report them to the council online at www.streetlink.org.uk
The Booth Centre is an award-winning community centre run with people affected by homelessness. Founded in 1995 by Amanda Croome, MBE, the Centre had the vision for everyone to have a secure home and the opportunity to have a good quality of life. The Booth Centre’s vision remains the same today, and the organisation is as determined as ever to work hard to achieve this in an unpredictable post-pandemic world.
The Booth Centre has released its latest Annual Report celebrating the positive changes the community was able to make during the last year. The report covers April 2020 to March 2021; a year in which the Centre stayed open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, redesigned its service with people at the Centre three times and celebrated its 25th Anniversary in lockdown.
After over 26 years of service, the Booth Centre’s dedicated CEO and Founder, Amanda Croome will be moving on at the end of November. Amanda will take up a new position with Caritas Diocese of Salford to oversee their homeless services across the region – including Cornerstone Day Centre, The Red Door in Bury and their accommodation projects. Patrick O’Dowd, Director of Caritas Diocese of Salford, said:
“Caritas Diocese of Salford is delighted that Amanda is joining our team from the Booth Centre after her years of dedicated service. Her deep commitment to people experiencing the trauma of homelessness, her leadership and expertise will be vital to our new plans as we seek to enhance and develop our existing work across Greater Manchester and Lancashire. With Amanda, we’re looking forward to continuing our great partnership with the Trustees and whole team at the Booth Centre and other agencies across Manchester in the future.”
Amanda leaves a successful, award-winning organisation, which has a transformative impact on the lives of more than a thousand people who are homeless each year. The Booth Centre has a national reputation for leading good practice in the field, with a clear strategic plan, a sound financial position, an engaged Board of Trustees and a strong leadership team. With a skilled and dedicated staff team and effective partnerships with a range of organisations and a community that works together to deliver transformative services; the Centre is in a strong position to face the inevitable challenges it faces in the coming months and years to continue its vital work.
Kate McSweeney, Deputy CEO, will take up the position of Acting CEO in the interim whilst recruitment is underway to find a new permanent CEO to lead the charity into its next phase. Kate will be supported by Amy Town (nee Hinks) - Head of Fundraising and Development and Alix Moreleigh - Head of Services.
Elena Fowler, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Booth Centre, said:
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, the staff team, our volunteers and supporters, I would like to thank Amanda for her unwavering dedication, commitment and hard work in founding and serving the Booth Centre over the last 26 years. Amanda’s sheer determination to put people affected by homelessness at the heart of decision-making, and the delivery of services, has had a huge impact for thousands of people through the work of the Booth Centre. Thankfully, the sector is not losing her expertise and experience, and we wish her every success in her new role with Caritas Diocese of Salford and look forward to continuing to work with her to help transform the lives of people affected by homelessness.
We are seeking to appoint a new CEO, who will provide strategic direction for the Booth Centre and its staff, and directly contribute to improving conditions and eradicating homelessness in Manchester and the city region. This is an exciting time to lead the Booth Centre into its next phase, and the role presents the opportunity for someone to make a real difference in helping to end homelessness in Manchester and to work with people to transform their lives.”
Find out more about the role and enquire here.
Here's a snapshot of our work during the year:
Everyone is entitled to a secure home and a good quality of life.
One group of people that have experienced particular problems over the last year are people from EU countries who have been hit hard by both Brexit and COVID - especially those in hospitality jobs.
In response, we have expanded our Greater Manchester Homeless Prevention Service for EU citizens and developed a wider partnership to ensure that no one is left destitute on the streets.
Through the partnership, we have created a pathway from destitution and rough sleeping to settled homes and employment, with the legal right to stay in the UK.
People who are homeless from European Union countries (many of whom lost jobs during COVID) are directed to the Booth Centre where they are helped to get into emergency accommodation provided by Supporting People In Need (as well as other partners, including Riverside and Stepping Stone) and they are then seen by the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, who run surgeries at the Booth Centre and Spin and assist with applications for Settled Status.
We run classes to help people improve their English and have a partnership with Business in the Community to help people get back into work.
The project is supported by Manchester City Council, the GM Combined Authority, and Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, who have all shown great flexibility in their approach.
The pathway was designed through co-production with the people themselves, who have experienced the problems of homelessness helping to make sure we designed a system that really works and many have also volunteered at the Booth Centre to help welcome and support new people coming in.
The outcomes have been really significant. In the last 12 months alone, we have helped 279 people who are originally from European countries, some we have been able to prevent from becoming homeless and some we have supported to return to their countries of origin. Of those that were homeless - 82 have got into supported accommodation, 44 have secured employment, and 54 have gained their Settled or Pre-settled status (many more applications are in progress) to enable them to legally stay in the UK. They now have the right to stay in Manchester, to work, and to be a part of our Manchester community, which they have chosen as home.
On his last day working at the Booth Centre Dane, a Social Work student, reflects on his time here.
I first came to the Booth Centre in October 2020 on a 70-day placement as part of the second year of my Social Work degree. Before deciding to go back to university, my background was in sales; an industry that I kind of 'fell into' but never really felt right for me. When I left my last sales role, I got a job working with adults with complex mental health diagnoses to live independently. It was this that inspired me to go down the pathway of Social Work with adults, and a desire to support people who are marginalised by our society and the system(s) that we live under.
When my 70-day placement came to an end I was then very lucky to be taken on to work both part-time (while studying) and full time over the summer. My final year means that I need to do a 100-day placement at a different kind of service, which is sadly why my time at the Booth Centre is coming to an end. I do genuinely wish I could stay.
I’d been involved in campaigning before I came to the Booth Centre, so, felt like I had a relatively good understanding of the homeless situation, particularly in Manchester. However, when I started the placement, I soon realised that my understanding was only the very tip of the iceberg of the homeless/housing crisis in the UK.
On my first day, I saw people who had been street homeless for a number of years alongside people who were in employment but whose wages were not enough to cover stable accommodation; people who were from Manchester to people who had recently arrived and were struggling to navigate the immigration system. This is what first impressed me about the Centre, the diversity of people and situations that it was able to encourage and respond to. Working alongside the diverse range of people who visit the Centre has probably been what I have enjoyed most during my time here. It may sound cliched, but you genuinely don't know what each new day will bring; though what you do know, is that the Booth Centre will go some way towards bringing about positive change in people's lives.
Working at the Booth Centre has also challenged my view of certain things. Prior to coming here, I had never experienced (and so properly valued) the importance of an activities-based setting. Previously, I may have been a bit sceptical about how doing an activity, such as art or gardening, could benefit someone with numerous support needs. I realise now how misguided this was. Seeing the people who access the Centre not just receive the support for their needs on an individual basis, but also gain confidence, improved self-esteem, new skills (and much more!) in a relaxed social setting, is extremely impressive, and quickly made me understand the vital role that working together on activities can play.
It would be impossible for me to write about the Booth Centre and not mention the staff here, who are all amazing! - as soon as I arrived here, I felt a part of something, and have felt supported by all of my colleagues from day one. The broad range of expertise across the team is, for me, what makes it possible for the Centre to be able to work with such a diverse range of people and situations. It can sometimes seem a glib cliche to refer to a staff team or a workplace as a family, but from what I have experienced here at the Booth Centre that may not be far off. Something that highlights this for me was after a particularly challenging morning in the Centre, which put quite a lot of strain on the team, seeing how everyone rallied around to support each other will stay with me. I am certain I have made some friends that I will keep in touch with, and I can only thank each person on the team for the support that they have given me over the last ten months.
To any students who are coming to do their placement here, I would say that you'll go a long way to find a better placement. You will be confronted with a rich range of opportunities to learn, on an almost daily basis. There is much formal learning you'll get the chance to do; from advice around benefits to housing policies; to immigration and mental health. The best thing though is to just be able to work alongside such a diverse group of people and learning about their unique lives and experiences.
To say I will miss the Booth Centre is an understatement! I am excited about my next challenge, but I am also hopeful that someday I will be back to play a part in this incredible service.
Dane Yates, Project Worker