The Booth Centre is BCL Legal’s nominated charity so we sat down with Amy Hinks to discuss how it helps homeless people in Manchester, who is using its services, what’s driving demand and how law firms can help, including the upcoming Manchester Sleepout.
Amy, can you please tell us a bit about the Booth Centre?
The Booth Centre is a small charity in Manchester.
We run an advice, activities and skills centre, with a cafe and well-being hub
for people who are homeless or have experience of homelessness.
What is its ultimate aim or mission?
Founded in 1995 by our CEO, Amanda Croome, the
Booth Centre's vision is for everyone to have a secure home and the opportunity
to have a good quality of life. Our mission is to bring about positive change
in the lives of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and help
them to plan for and realise a better future.
What kinds of services does the Booth Centre offer?
We do this by working alongside the people
attending the centre, to provide activities which help people rebuild
confidence and learn something new whilst having fun and building social
connections. We run arts, employment and skills sessions daily and offer everyone
a healthy, free breakfast and lunch, as well as showers and support. Advice is available
to help people find accommodation and overcome the practical difficulties they
are facing. The Centre is currently serving or 700 free hot meals each week,
and we can be visited by around 100 people a day.
Who are your clients? Is it just those living on the streets or people in other situations?
The people who visit the Centre for support can be
in very different situations, there is no one 'story' that fits all. Some,
around a third, may be sleeping rough on the streets, others may be living in
temporary situations such as a hostel or emergency night shelter, and others
may have their own place to call home, but they visit the Booth Centre for
additional support around other areas of their life. This could be support to
find employment or training, help to reconnect with family or friends, or to
access health services, or simply to socialise and enjoy taking part in
activities or volunteering.
What are the main factors driving the demand for your services?
We're definitely seeing an increase in demand for
the services we offer here at the Booth Centre. There are many complex factors
which have led to this, including things like government cuts to crucial public
health and mental health services; changes to how the labour market operates
including zero-hours contracts; changes to our welfare system and the
implementation of Universal Credit, all of which have impacted on the most
vulnerable people in our society. There is a severe problem both locally and
nationally with a lack of affordable accommodation, so there simply isn't
enough suitable housing stock for the people who use our services.
There has been a lot of talk about eliminating rough sleeping in Greater Manchester. Do you think achieving that goal is far off?
Eliminating rough sleeping is an ambitious goal,
and a necessary one, but for the Booth Centre it's not enough. Our aim is to
end homelessness in all its forms, not just rough sleeping. There's a lot being
done to support people to move off the streets into temporary emergency
response shelters with multiple beds, so numbers of people rough sleeping may
decline in the coming years. But at the Booth Centre, we're working hard to
support those people to move into suitable long term homes where they can start
to have a good quality of life and live in safety and security.
The Manchester Sleep Out is happening on 8th November so can you tell us about that?
The Manchester Sleepout is the Booth Centre's annual
fundraising event at Manchester Cathedral. Members of the public, teams from
local companies and local groups are invited to join us and sleep outside
Manchester Cathedral for one night only to help raise awareness of the
situation some people face night after night. The Manchester Sleepout also
raises vital funds to ensure the Booth Centre can continue to support thousands
of people each year through our services. Taking part in this event does not
show you the true harsh reality of what it's like to have to sleep
rough on the streets, far from it, but it's a snap-shot of what people are
faced with, and it's a group of people coming together to raise funds and
saying 'I want to do something positive to help'.
Are you still looking for participants?
Yes! We're encouraging people to register their team with us as soon as
possible. We're hoping to have around 500 people take part.