On the 29th September, we hosted 48 amazing Booth Centre Supporters, right here at the Centre for our Autumn Sleepover event. Individuals, organisations, and businesses traded their comfy beds for our floors, showing immense compassion to raise crucial funds and awareness for those affected by homelessness in our community.
The evening kicked off with a fantastic welcome from our CEO Paul and Head of Fundraising Jenni, thanking each of our challengers for their time and commitment, but also reminding us why we are here:
Today in Manchester, more than 7,500 are without a home. Here at the Centre we've witnessed a 35% surge in the demand for our services in the past year alone. This surge, especially as temperatures drop and the need for support continues to rise, emphasizes the crucial role our community plays in providing life-changing support to those affected by homelessness. We simply could not deliver our vital service without the generosity and commitment of our supporters.
It was really wonderful to welcome so many of our supporters to the Centre- some for the first time- to see the Centre in person, and hear first-hand how their support helps people in our community. Throughout the evening staff, visitors, volunteers and supporters new and old engaged in engaged in heartfelt discussions before finally winding down for lights out.
The night was bitingly cold but luckily without rain, and as sun rose on Saturday morning our challengers woke up to a hot drink and sandwich, before heading home to thaw out! While spending the night in an unfamiliar and open environment offered only a glimpse into the struggles endured by those without a home, it left our participants with plenty to think about, and their resilience in overcoming this challenge was amazing.
We are so proud of and grateful to everyone who took part in the event, and hope that despite the lack of sleep, after the event they felt invigorated, enthused and inspired. The event has so far raised an impressive £20,000 and these funds will directly aid individuals in their journey out of homelessness, guiding them toward stable accommodation, employment, and training. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated, from all of us at the Booth Centre.
Check out the full gallery of images from the night below. If you spot yourself and would like a higher quality copy of the image please contact Isla at email@example.com. Fundraising pages are still open, so if you wish to make a last-minute donation, head to our JustGiving Page to support our fundraisers and our cause!
Feeling inspired? Sign up for our next Sleepover event here! Will we see you at the next one?
Today we are excited to announce the official launch of the Booth Centre Community Hub, a holistic, flexible approach to homelessness prevention. We recognise that preventing homelessness is so much less damaging to a person’s life and of significantly less cost to society and services, than homelessness alleviation. This project offers a targeted approach to prevention work with a dedicated team and both strategic and operational aspects.
The Booth Centre Prevention Hub is more than a place; it's a community, a support network, and a pathway to a brighter future. More widely, preventing homelessness has positive effects on the community, such as safer streets, a healthier society, reduced strain on healthcare services, and increased business investment. It also brings significant cost savings for the local authority and other organizations in the system.
We provide a holistic, whole-person way of working whilst building relationships with partners across the city to ensure all citizens of Manchester can have a safe place to call home and a good quality of life. From specialist support to help people sustain their accommodation and overcome housing insecurity to our volunteering and activities programmes that help people find purpose and direction, the support delivered is person-led, asset-based and has no fixed time limit.
The Prevention Hub is accessed via the Community Hub referral form and is open to all. Individuals can refer themselves, be referred on behalf of an external agency or access the support directly through the Booth Centre through our wider service offer.
The walking group is one of many weekly activities at the Booth Centre. It started before the pandemic and has been a way for people to come together for exercise and to discover different parks around Manchester. The ultimate aim is to help people gain self-esteem and improve their confidence and wellbeing by going on walks and simply having a chat.
Since re-launching the group in 2022, there has been an incredible uptake for our weekly walks, and the group have conquered almost every green space in Manchester, with some individuals being inspired to venture even further afield!
From Sackville Gardens to Sale Water Park, every walk is co-produced with the people who attend: from designing posters to promote the group to deciding on the next route.
Thank you to Cycle & Stride for Active Lives from TfGM for giving a grant to help make the Walking Group possible. And this isn't the end - we are looking forward to many more walking adventures!
Read our full Walking Group Report here
Find out more about Cycle and Stride for Active Lives here
I've been in place as CEO of the Booth Centre for about six months now, and the time has flown! I'd like to start by saying the organisation is as impressive as I expected, having worked closely with the Centre in my previous roles. In fact, it's even better. My focus has been to build on the great work and outcomes currently delivered at the Centre and further enhance its strong reputation in the sector. We’ve been focusing on key areas to ensure the Centre is making a real difference for those who visit, such as:
We receive a grant from Manchester City Council to support our work preventing homelessness and rough sleeping, through holistic person-centred support. We’ve been reviewing this project to ensure our services are aligned with the needs of our community and the Council’s strategies. We're excited to explore new ways of working to keep the Centre relevant and progressive.
The "heart of the centre" :
Our café and wellbeing centre is open five days a week, and is a vital part of the Centre. We are able to offer people who get involved in our sessions a chance to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch in a sociable environment. We're looking to review and redesign this space alongside staff, volunteers and people who visit the Centre. We're visiting some of the best kitchens in similar centres in the region to gather ideas – watch this space!
Organisational Development :
We’re reviewing a whole host of areas to ensure our service is as effective as possible including; processes, staff wellbeing, governance and reporting. Staff wellbeing is a key priority. If our staff are happy, our visitors are.
We’ve been strengthening our governance by recruiting new board members and introducing a new sub-committee made up of volunteers and people who visit the centre. They'll be able to support the trustees with important decisions to ensure people affected by homelessness have their voices heard.
Refreshed activities programme :
The Centre works best as a warm and sociable environment to help combat the sense of social isolation people often feel. Activities have always and will always be an important part of the Booth Centre’s DNA. As we move on from the restrictions of the pandemic, we're keen to work with our visitors to really maximise our offer and we are growing our activities programme as part of this.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the fantastic community of people that make up the Booth Centre over the past six months – including visitors, volunteers, staff, supporters and partners. As ever, we’re committed to working in partnership to achieve lasting change for those affected by homelessness – here’s looking forward to what we can accomplish together!
"She's not the Queen, she's a very naughty girl": The Booth Centre Theatre company takes to the Edge Theatre stage with their most recent performance.
The story that then unfolds is truly delightful, as a rag-tag group of players launch ‘Coronation Tours’, overhauling an old bus from their workplace and... ahem “redirecting” some cash donations meant for charity to the enterprise- much to their boss’ dismay! From there, we are taken on a journey to sunny Blackpool, along with a family unit straight out of a ‘Carry On’ film and no shortage of cries of “Are we there yet- no!” that echoes the call and response of pantomime theatre and proved just as entertaining!
In a case of mistaken identities rivalled only by a Shakespearean comedy, one of our protagonists- Queenie- reveals herself, confessing that she has run away with Coronation Tours and was masquerading as a man the whole time- shock! This confession is overheard by our nosey landlady- a true entertainer throughout the performance- and the newspapers, now under the impression that the newly crowned Queen has come to Blackpool, are on their way- horror! The confusion and silliness only intensify when, between further hijinks and a particularly eventful ride on the ghost train, it is revealed that Queen Elizabeth herself was in fact in Blackpool all along (stop I can’t take anymore!)
As the show played out to a captivated audience of friends, family and (no doubt after this performance) newfound fans, it was interesting to reflect not just on the talent of the actors but on the message of the performance, which was one of friendship, love and acceptance. It is always nice to be reminded that, regardless of who we are or whatever our situation might be, kindness and tolerance will bond us, and we are all Queens at heart.
People who are homeless experience high levels of mental ill- health, and our Drama Programme, run in partnership with The Edge, is focused on improving mental health and wellbeing through workshops and performance. There is a wealth of evidence showing that participation in creative projects can keep people well, and through the past 11 years of our partnership with The Edge, we have seen first-hand how getting involved in the sessions can help individuals gain confidence, develop genuine dramatic skills, and overcome isolation and build connections. Of the 15 cast members, 12 had experienced homelessness, and the connection between them as they shared tender moments, exchanged witticisms and executed spot-on comedic timing was a real testament to how performance can increase positive connectedness. Co-production is also central to this project with people supported to volunteer, help set up the group, lead elements of the sessions, and decide the theme, again helping to build confidence and improve wellbeing.
To read more about the benefits that high-quality cultural interventions can bring to homelessness services, check out Get Creative: Arts for All – a Homeless Link project we were involved in.
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.