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
During 2019 and 2020, the Booth Centre Media Group (made up of people affected by homelessness) discussed the negative coverage of homelessness that had been achieving high viewer ratings. The coverage also directly impacted individuals who saw themselves or people they knew portrayed in a way that never aimed to educate the viewer on the whole picture, instead simply reinforcing inaccurate and negative stereotypes and the othering of people affected by homelessness.
The Media Group shared personal experiences of homelessness and interacting with the media and the decision was made to formalise our approach to the media. We've now asked other organisations to take the pledge and commit to ending these inaccurate and damaging representations to allow positive change to happen and to preserve the dignity of all. We are proud to say 17 organisations have now given their support to the pledge! Together we can achieve more!
Download the pledge below and if you'd like to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Booth Centre strategic plan for the next three years was agreed last year but with the uncertainty of 2020 we spent time considering the ambitious targets we set ourselves... We decided that now more than ever we need to aspire to more, people need homes and jobs, it being more difficult at the moment is no excuse to aim for less. We've never published our plans like this before, in a year of change now is the time to be bold.
Thank you to Cheetham Bell for providing gift in kind design.
Following an accident and stroke Sue was left with severe disabilities. Being unable to return to her professional career she spent a year as she says 'doing nothing', unable to leave the house and suffering with mental health problems. It was the kindness of a friend that helped Sue to rebuild her confidence and start being active again. Sue volunteers to share her talents and pay forward the kindness she was shown and to provide routine and stability. Photography has been a passion of hers since she was 14 and she will be documenting Booth Centre activities over the following months. Welcome to the team Sue!
Our theme for canvas painting this week was winter. There were pictures already on the Inspiration Table to help us with ideas. The group chatted at the table (two metre distanced and masked of course). Then inspiration taken, a calm hum of concentration fell over the room.
The occasional question or person looking at others work made it feel very friendly and welcoming. The photos have tried to capture how certain paintings came to life from start to completion. The beautiful totally different pink party gown was a fabulous surprise but still with the season being one of parties absolutely spot on. The art is hung around the Booth Centre for all to see.