the bottom line

The Social Impact Bond (SIB), Bed Every Night and now Housing First.  The Trinity of actions to tackle homelessness.  Each has a different definition, but they are all chasing the same holy grail – to end the need for rough sleeping.logos

I spent another day shadowing an outreach worker yesterday, calling on 4 people (former rough sleepers) who she has helped into accommodation and enabled the support to keep them there (and resolve the problems that lead to homelessness in the first place).

The challenge is daunting – to set up home, from nothing, having been excluded from society for many years, maybe with a host of personal difficulties.  I’d need a lot of help, for sure.  Getting a job is generally not an option.  Addiction, mental and physical health problems preclude the mantra ‘the best way out of poverty is employment’.

And if you stop to think of the cost to us taxpayers, it will make your eyes water.  As I hear about the numerous, basic things that will be funded by local and national government, and the on-going benefits, I can’t help but shudder.  I box off that thought because the need to do something for our fellow Mancs overrides it.   It gets worse though, some benefits payments will go to drug dealers, that’s life.

Does the cost bother you?

If the cost of this stops us from sanctioning this expense, then we are one step away from the most brutal facism.

The bottom line is that in our society, in our communities we must support each other, whatever the cost.

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Making history

I go to some of the open meetings that bring together the many organisations in Manchester tackling homelessness.  As I sat in the one in August when Bed Every Night was announced I thought ‘I hope someone is documenting this’.  Photos, notes, videos, interviews.  Because history is being made and there should be a documentary.  People will come to Manchester to see how it’s done.  I sat in another of those get-togethers today and thought the same thing.

This was a celebration of SIB.  A year on from the start of the Social Impact Bond scheme in Manchester that gives funding to organisations to get people off the streets and into accommodation and to keep them there.

Fortunately, there is a video.

It’s not strictly part of the Bed Every Night scheme, but it’s becoming clear that tackling homelessness requires multiple strategies and interventions.  Every single person needs a unique plan, there is no blanket solution.  One on one.

Progress

Announced in August, launched in November and after just 2 months,  A Bed Every Night has helped more than 450 people.   The Mayor tells it like it is here.

If you walk the streets of Greater Manchester there are fewer rough sleepers.

The more I see of the individuals and agencies tackling homelessness, the more impressed and humbled I become.  There had better be some recognition in next year’s OBEs for these guys and girls.  And a tenner says Andy Burnham will be PM before I’m gone.

For my part, I’ve almost completed my peer mentor training with Shelter and I hope to be making a contribution to their work soon.

Vincent Kompany continues to show his commitment.  Latest announcement is a gala dinner in February, (cabaret from Noel Gallagher).  Tickets are something like 500 quid.  I hope it raises loads of money of course, but I doubt I’ll be there, nor anyone I know!

What the cleaner said

A while back, recovering from an op, I booked a cleaner to help me blitz my house. 3 hours of graft.  She was marvellous, worked hard, had a laugh, put the world to rights.  I didn’t want to sit around while she worked, I wanted to be part of the effort but I knew I wouldn’t do it on my own. One thing she said has stuck with me – ‘some things are just easier done as a team’.  I don’t like cleaning particularly, I do it but get easily distracted and make do with a lick and a promise.  With her doing it with me, it stopped me sloping off, we got on with it ‘cos we kept each other going.  On that day she was my peer support.

The push for volunteers at Shelter is for peer support workers.  I’m helping a Sheltershelter client with job search.  He could do it on his own, but having a buddy nudges the task along.  I’m there to encourage/cajole him to get on with the task, to have the confidence to apply, to believe in himself again.  He’s been homeless,  he’s moved into a flat with little in the way of possessions, he doesn’t have a full time job at the moment.

Sometimes, you will hear a homeless person refuse a flat because it means moving away from people they share their lives with on the street.  A home can be a very isolated place.  So the more community support we can provide, the less daunting the change.

We’ve had a couple of sessions searching online for jobs and put in several applications.  He could have done this on his own, but with the frankly devastating personal challenges he has had, a buddy to help him might be just enough to get him above the line to where he can support himself.

A bed every night

And we’re off.  A Bed, Every. Night.

A-Bed-Every-Night-Logo

There’s been a surge of interest (press, tv, radio, social media), and the usual smattering of pointless bickering and whinging online.   The professionals at the sharp end are selling it big time on the news.  Donations are up too, (though, frustratingly, I contacted the site owner to ask about donating with Paypal and didn’t get an answer.)

The request from charities for donations for people on the street continues, looking strangely incongruous amongst the #bedeverynight stories, though I’d be naive to expect an overnight transformation.  You will still see people sleeping in doorways.  Some will be helped, some won’t want to be.  Any charity’s first thought is to help people; there 2nd thought is how to sustain their organisation.  What will be their raison d’etre if we do turn the tide of rough sleeping?

I’ve completed my Shelter induction, giving me a little more confidence to be a peer mentor, and I’m out again next week shadowing a case worker.

This is a video of the first person I visited, with his Shelter case worker in Ashton.  Go Anthony!  I was with him when he got a first look at his flat.

I’m at the local hostel run by The Brick on Sunday mornings.  Safe space, managed, onsite support, food and facilities.  Despite being a far cry from one’s own home, it is a place with a good vibe and a sociable feel.  It’s cosy, maybe too cosy.

The plan is that the #bedeverynight hostels are a stepping stone to independent living.  But for some people, I imagine that it could be a long term solution for them.  Maybe you don’t want to move on.  Maybe you like the order imposed on you and the company and support always there.  We all need boundaries sometimes.

I don’t think long term sheltered accommodation is in the plan.  Perhaps it should be.  Society steps in at various points to make sure we help both ourselves and the greater good – school, health, taxation, democracy, benefits and prison.  A long term, shared and supported living space would be a lot cheaper than health care and prison – services that many will need if they return to living on the streets.

We will now sing hymn number …

‘Singing from the same hymn sheet’ is an expression that might be on your list of worst office cliches.  Not as bad as ‘blue sky thinking’ or “I have a window…’.

A few days ago I read 3 social media posts that seemed to illustrate a struggle for cohesion in our campaign to tackle homelessness in Manchester.

One charity had sleeping bags they needed to store, another is desperate for sleeping bags, and the Mayor re-iterated our (supposedly) mutual target to get a bed every night for rough sleepers throughout the winter (so why should we donate items for rough sleepers?).  I’m retiscent about any criticism of the hugely valuable and difficult work that the charities are doing, but I felt it was valid to point out some confusion that these public statements might create.  We are trying to get the power of the crowd behind us, and the crowd (me included) likes to know what we’re being asked to support.

posts

I posted that image on my FB feed.  I wasn’t prepared for the vitriol that came to the surface. Aren’t we all trying to achieve the same thing? To help people get OFF the streets?  It was like witnessing the factional bickering of tribes in some far off war torn land, satirised so well in Life Of Brian.

The only comment that was a rational explanation came from someone pointing out that the sleeping bags could well be used for a #bedeverynight indoor provision, not necessarily for rough sleepers.  Good point.  The rest of the comments were along the lines of ‘nothing’s being done’.

These were people who can’t have been at the recent Greater Manchester Homeless Action Network (I hate that name) meeting.  https://news.streetsupport.net/2018/10/17/working-towards-a-bed-every-night/

We will make history this winter in Manchester.  For goodness sake, let’s all sing from the same frikkin hymn sheet.

The power of the crowd

This week, Vincent Kompany came on board with Andy B’s push for a bed every night.  Even if you’re not into football (or worse, a Red), that is a big deal.

Vincent Kompany has nearly 3 million twitter followers and he commands respect.  He is eloquent, passionate and devoted to Manchester.  The reaction on social media looked like it might trigger the unstoppable wave that is the power of the crowd, as people who hadn’t previously got behind the effort, took notice.

There are 3 fundraising events planned over the coming year http://tackle4mcr.co.uk/  No idea what sort of money that will raise, but equally important is the profile and the people he will bring with him.  Including, I hope, that elusive ‘crowd’.

We’ve seen the power of the crowd in Manchester, after the arena bombing, but we haven’t reached terminal velocity yet with our homelessness campaign.

Vincent Kompany’s campaign is called Tackle4Mcr.  Great, another twitter handle, another hashtag.  After a couple of days the Twitter account has less followers than me unfortunately, but football is a game of 2 halves etc etc.  Be patient, Pete, be patient.

Much of the debate round solving homelessness revolves around funding, or lack of it.  Today, I spent my first day shadowing a Shelter case worker, and was reminded that throwing money at the problem is not the be all and end all – homelessness is a community responsibility.  We spent time with 2 men.  The case worker has just enabled them to move into their own flats and we helped with the paperwork and organisation around utilities, Universal Credit, rent, furnishings and the like.  I hope we also shared some simple humanity with people who bloody well need it.  The attention to detail and the the simple love the case worker showed were so heartening.  I was apprehensive about my day, but came away buzzing about what can be done.  Relationships are just as important as funding.

We were in Ashton-under-Lyne and used The Station pub as a makeshift office and meeting point.  Read this to know what a community response is, and weep. https://www.politicalprovocateur.uk/single-post/2018/02/07/We-Shall-Overcome-2018