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
We’re extremely excited to announce that performers from The Booth Centre will return to The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre this September, in the drama group’s first public performances since the start of the pandemic.
The group is run in partnership with The Edge Theatre in Chorlton, with regular drama workshops for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Together we launched The Booth Centre Theatre Company – a unique company producing high-quality theatre, and offering people the chance to get involved in all aspects of running a theatre company.
These drama workshops and performances are an integral part of our service, and offer people a chance to build their confidence and most importantly have fun! Studies have shown that creativity in everyday life increases our overall sense of wellbeing, and we recognise the importance of offering high-quality and meaningful activities. The workshops empower people to try new things, make friends and showcase their talents.
"in the drama group it feels like I am with my family" - Mohammed
The upcoming performance Air is set in the year 2121 when Dougal, a cog tightener on the AIR machine, goes to visit his computer uploaded Gran to learn about the place they called Manchester.
Thursday 9th September 2021 at 7.30pm
Friday 10th September 2021 at 3pm
Saturday 11th September at 3pm
Find more information about the performances and book tickets here.
The Booth Centre has remained open throughout the pandemic, providing essential support and a safe place for people to share their experiences and learn from each other. We have once again redesigned our service to react to the changing landscape of COVID-19.
From the beginning of June, we were able to stop operating in two service ‘bubbles’ so that people coming into the centre can now access both upstairs and downstairs in our building. Everyone has been happy to be able to see each other again, as the ‘bubbles’ meant some people hadn’t crossed paths in months! More people are now able to have breakfast and lunch in our café and access the activities taking place in the Centre.
As well as activities such as gardening, art and drama, we are continuing to support people with accommodation referrals, resettlement applications, qualifications and more. As always, all of this is achieved in partnership with people who attend the centre – who contribute their skills and experience to help us strive for best practice. See the poster below for full details of the current service.
Rigorous COVID-19 measures remain in place to keep our community safe – most people are continuing to wear masks and the Centre is very well ventilated with our double veranda doors opening from our café to our lovely, award-winning garden.
The GP van from the Urban Village Medical Practice visits each Thursday morning so people are able to see the nurse and get their COVID-19 vaccinations. We haven't returned to people queuing up for food, but have retained our table service as it's creating such a nice, relaxed café atmosphere that people are really enjoying, after so long in isolation, as well as helping to retain some social distancing.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our wonderful supporters – you’re helping us to continue our important work during this difficult time.
As the seasons change and the need for severe cold weather provision eases reflection on the previous months will be formalised. This is some of what has been happening in Manchester this winter...
Severe cold weather can be a life-or-death situation for people who rough sleep, in Manchester when the temperature is forecast to drop below zero Manchester City Council and charity partners with additional resource are able to mobilise to get people off the street and provide ongoing support so this is just the first step towards a permanent solution.
Manchester City Council, charities, businesses and volunteers alongside people affected by homelessness form the Manchester Homelessness Partnership. The Partnership work all year to plan and deliver co-ordinated responses to specific challenges, in summer 2019 it was agreed that all emergency accommodation had to meet minimum standards that safeguard physical and mental health. The pandemic accelerated the goal of all emergency accommodation being single room occupancy and the impact of this has been evident in people's wellbeing.
The first cold weather activation for this winter period was on 24th December, when it is activated, charities work together to provide a wraparound service that covers day, night, weekends and even Christmas Day. During cold weather activation all services have a role to play to get everyone into emergency accommodation, we evaluate the response and work with people who were rough sleeping to try and improve it for the future. Always remembering two things; this shouldn’t be happening (one person on the street is too many) and we can always do better.
The Booth Centre and Coffee4Craig (at The Meanwhile) operate the daytime and out of hours hubs. This is where people who sleep rough can be directed to be accommodated. Young people can also be directed to Centrepoint who are also able to refer into emergency accommodation. People are also provided with a phone if they need one so they can be linked in with ongoing support, they are offered food and welfare essentials and then get a taxi to their accommodation.
The referrals into accommodation are all now done electronically which has streamlined the process considerably and has meant more people can get referred directly from the street – this has been important this year as we also have the threat from Covid to deal with. In the city, in the evenings trained staff and volunteers from Coffee4Craig and Men's Room meet at the evening hub before starting their coordinated outreach and the MASH van circulates offering advice and support to women. At weekends Lifeshare operate their breakfast club and are able to refer people into accommodation and do outreach. In South Manchester Reach Out to the Community run outreach in the day and night, again referring people directly from the street and providing a taxi so they can get to their accommodation. Across Manchester, homelessness charities are involved in referring people they work with into accommodation and providing information regarding the hubs; this includes Shelter, Mustard Tree, Centrepoint and On The Out who provide a specialist service for people leaving prison.
Manchester City Council and charities lead outreach work, this is normally done in teams of two or three, with all people being trained in areas such as safeguarding, first aid and mental health. Once someone sleeping on the streets is identified the team will do an assessment of that person's needs, a referral form is completed and sent. A room will then be allocated and a taxi ordered for the person. If the team feel someone needs non-emergency medical attention North West First Aid will attend.
Once in emergency accommodation this is just the start of the journey and services work together to give people the best possible chance of making this step a long term one. Some of the accommodation is staffed full time with support workers from a range of organisations including Riverside, SSG, DePaul or Manchester City Council. Where private hotels are being used then support workers from Barnabus, On The Out and the Mens’ Room visit to provide support. Specialist support for young people is provided by Centrepoint, for women by MASH, for asylum seekers by Boaz Trust and for EU migrants by the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and the Booth Centre. The Booth Centre and Barnabus make and deliver food parcels. The Booth Centre also provides activity packs and art materials. Bus tickets are available so people can travel to appointments and services that will guide people in their next steps towards goals such as improved health, permanent accommodation and employment. Change Grow Live, Urban Village Medical Practice and the NHS Mental Health Homeless Team can offer health support. People referred into emergency accommodation are being offered a full homelessness assessment by the Council, to establish if they have a statutory entitlement to rehousing.
By working together, we can support more people to achieve their goals.
Written with Niall Love @McrSalford and thanks to all services for their input.
During the 25 years the Booth Centre has been open the number of women attending has only increased, this rise has been reflected in services nationally. The increases in homelessness over the past decade has disproportionately affected women, and the true figures are difficult to know as women are more likely to be considered hidden homeless – people without a home but not known to any services. Women are also typically more vulnerable when rough sleeping so ensuring services adapt to meet the need of this group is essential.
The Booth Centre Women's Group has been running since we redesigned our service in August – meeting every other week. It has been important to maintain this support group. The group is formed of volunteers and visitors who are experiencing homelessness and chaired by Louise our employment and skills project worker. The upstairs of the Centre is women only for the duration of the meeting and it is a space to talk, reflect, plan, evaluate and a place to feel comfortable and accepted. The group have been instrumental in driving forward inclusive ideas for the Centre and have a lot of plans for when restrictions ease and hope more women will be able to attend.
At the last meeting good news was shared – one person has started an IT course to help them secure employment, another is volunteering at the Booth Centre and is enjoying making breakfast and making people feel welcome and two people from the group are preparing for new tenancies. So a lot of positive steps forward, but not all sessions are filled with this much good news.
To celebrate International Women's Day the group had planned some craft time to relax and be creative. Recognising that writing things down can really help managing and processing emotions and how positive affirmations can support wellbeing. One volunteer from the group led on decorating notebooks to write down thoughts and ideas for the changes about to happen in their lives. Positive affirmations were also used to decorate some photo frames to put up at home or keep safe so everyone can be reminded how fabulous they are. The volunteer wanted everyone to feel special on this celebratory Women's Group session so put together special gift bags for everyone to take away.
The Women's Group would like more female underwear to be donated, we don't have any left and the group would like to put underwear in the gift bags they give out at sessions. Please deliver to the Centre Monday-Friday 9am-3:30pm or buy via our Amazon wishlist. Thank you!
The Big Change MCR allows charities to apply for small grants for individuals to support them on their journey to having a good quality of life. Booth Centre's resettlement worker Jason works with individuals to find homes for people; supporting people off the streets and emergency accommodation. This is Bill's story (name has been changed).
When Bill first came to the Booth Centre, he was staying in emergency accommodation. He came for breakfast, a brew and a shower at first but once at the Centre he got chatting to Jason. He was directed to the Job Club and once he had his paperwork sorted he swiftly secured a job in a warehouse. Over a series of weeks he continued building his relationship with Jason and when his shifts allowed he would attend activity sessions at the Booth Centre which made him feel more in control of his life, it wasn't always an issue of survival any more he was free to think and create.
Like many people that come to the Booth Centre his main goal was to find a home and for someone in Bill's situation this means private rented accommodation. Unfortunately due to the availability and cost (compared to warehouse work salary) of the private sector in Manchester this is never easy, even though Bill was working. Jason and Bill worked together to find suitable properties when they found one they needed to act fast. Saving for an upfront payment of a month's rent and deposit can be difficult for us all, fearful the chance of a home would be lost Bill and Jason made an application to the Big Change MCR. The grant was approved and the Big Change MCR provided Bill with the necessary funds so he could move.
The move was successful and continues to be nine months later. With the independence, safety and freedom gained Bill has maintained his employment and continues to work with Jason, knowing he is just a phone call away if he needs him. Bill doesn't need to visit the Booth Centre for breakfast or a brew any more but our virtual Job Club will be there for him when he's ready to apply for a promotion.
Shops, 24 hour fast food restaurants, libraries can all provide shelter from extreme weather for people who rough sleep. It's not a dignified thing to be forced into but it can be life-saving. This isn't an option this winter which is why the response from Manchester City Council and partners when the temperature falls to 0 has never been more critical. Day centres and other support services for people affected by homelessness have also been closed or on restricted opening meaning getting people into accommodation is so important.
At the Booth Centre we operate the daytime cold weather hub for Manchester. We have all weather gazebos and outside heaters as well as being able to safely seat 12 people downstairs in our cafe space and 10 people upstairs in our Skills and Employment space
Christmas Eve was the first activation of a cold weather response this winter, this involves Manchester City Council and charity partners working together to get as many people sleeping rough inside as possible. A total of 88 people were accommodated from the Booth Centre hub over the Christmas period. We provided people with phones and sent them information via a free text messaging service. And our kitchen has been producing over 50 food bags a day for people in hotels which don't provide meals.
With severe weather continuing into January we have been able to get more people into emergency accommodation. Consequently, the number of people sleeping rough in Manchester have fallen dramatically and we're now all working together to help keep these people inside, and get them the support and long-term homes that they need.
The Booth Centre provides an essential service for people who are homeless. By remaining open we not only protect our community but help to reduce the chance of transmission in the city. With this in mind we have once again adapted our service to give us the best chance of being able to safely remain open to support people, whilst the threat from the new variant of Covid is so severe.
From Monday 11th January we divided our service into two bubbles. Staff, volunteers and people accessing the Centre are assigned to one bubble and will now stay in that bubble until we feel it is safe to relax these measures. We have split the building to accommodate the two bubbles. To access the service people should continue to phone 0161 835 2499 or to come to reception.
Bubble 1: Upstairs
Bubble 2: Downstairs
This will include:
We are continuing to support people who do not attend the Centre by:
How you can help:
We write on behalf of Manchester Homelessness Partnership organisations to ask you to reconsider your decision not to fund essential accommodation for people who are experiencing homelessness or sleeping on the streets during this third national lockdown. We appreciate the funding given to date has been critical to addressing the risks to this population of the pandemic but it is simply not enough now that a third lockdown is in place for at least the next 8 weeks.
Yesterday the House of Commons voted to pass this lockdown into law, making it unlawful for people to leave their homes without good reason. The law is worded so that it excludes people who are experiencing homelessness, in effect making it lawful for them to remain outside during one of the most acute stages of this pandemic.
With over 1,000 deaths yesterday and the number of cases increasing daily, we ask for this emergency funding so that we can continue to keep people safe during this unpredictable time.
Because these are people we are supporting; they deserve the same chance as everyone else to survive this virus. The chances are stacked against them with no safe place of their own and the difficulty of engaging with health services with no phone or internet.
We’re asking for additional funding to keep people in accommodation throughout this lockdown so that we as a partnership can work with them as we did during ‘Everyone In’, where we accommodated over 450 people and helped 270 to move off the streets to a new home.
Please don’t let the people we support become the daily statistics we see in the media. Please reverse your decision on the basis of humanitarian aid.
Amanda Croome – The Booth Centre
Yvonne Hope – Barnabus
Jo Walby – The Mustard Tree
Ros Holland – The Boaz Trust
Helen Brown – On The Out
Stephanie Moore & Rebecca Elliot – Reach Out to the Community
Joe Lomas – Centrepoint
Hendrix & Risha Lancaster – Coffee4Craig
Liz Norris - Shelter
Judith Vickers – Lifeshare
Annie Emery – MASH
Fergal McCullough – The Men’s Room