Riverside runs an A Bed Every Night shelter in Crumpsall, making use of an unused former children’s home to create much needed 38-bed multi-occupancy accommodation for people affected by homelessness.
Over the past six months, since the A Bed Every Night scheme was officially started by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, Riverside has provided support for 175 individuals at this shelter. The shelter is a lifeline for people who are homeless to take care of their physiological needs and as well as safety net it provides a crucial first step for people on their journey to get their lives back on track.
Since the shelter opened in November the dedicated team running the facility have helped 40 people move on to find a fixed address as a more permanent home. Riverside, the third largest provider of homelessness services in the UK, has gone beyond the remit of A Bed Every Night to create a shelter which is more comfortable for residents.
Riverside’s shelter provides residents with two hot meals a day rather than one, has rooms for couples who are homeless, and people with dogs who are homeless. In addition it is the only A Bed Every Night shelter in Greater Manchester which is open 24 hours a day meaning that residents can access their rooms and belongings 24 hours a day rather than being locked out at times during the day and night.
Eleanor Watts, an Area Manager at Riverside, helped create the Crumpsall shelter and co-ordinates A Bed Every Night across the whole of Greater Manchester. She said: “I’ve been working in the homelessness sector and supported housing for the past 15 years. In that time I’ve worked across all 10 of the boroughs of Greater Manchester.
“A Bed Every Night is without a doubt the most concerted borough-wide effort I’ve been a part of and more than that it’s the most co-ordinated region-wide effort to help people who are homeless I’ve ever heard of happening anywhere in the UK. To have all the boroughs of Greater Manchester working together to help provide a place for someone who is homeless to go every night of the week is an incredible achievement and has helped rough sleeper numbers fall across the region for the first time in eight years.
“Greater Manchester has a proud history of doing things differently and of pulling together when people are in need and at times of crisis. The Mayor’s office and the Combined Authority have certainly facilitated us all working together to a common goal to end homelessness. There’s no discipline in the world where people get things 100% right especially in the first year of operation and there have been a lot of learnings along the way. What we’ve proven to the world with A Bed Every Night is that Greater Manchester does come together to help tackle the big problems we face. We’re so grateful to all the workers and volunteers who have worked around the clock to make A Bed Every Night happen. Now we’re looking forward to working together again to make A Bed Every Night an even greater success over the next 12 months.”
Gary George runs the Crumpsall shelter. He has spent more than 10 years working in the care and support sector and runs the shelter with a passionate team of six workers. The former youth worker, said: “This is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career. It’s vitally important that people recognise A Bed Every Night has considerably reduced homelessness in Manchester.
“We run a nice house here and show people that we’re here to support them. We have changed people’s lives but those people have to want to change their lives. We can give them all the help and support that we can but at the end of the day it’s down to that particular individual and how much they want to change. One of our biggest successes of our A Bed Every Night shelter was a person who’d been on the streets for four to five years. He was in a stable environment until he lost his partner and then went on to struggle with drug addiction. We gave him some support and now he’s gone on into stable accommodation and he’s still there and doing extremely well. It’s these successes that make me want to get out of bed every morning and help to make a difference.
“We cannot do everything for anyone though, we’re here to play a crucial role for people in their journey back but deep down people have to really want to change for themselves. The Mayor has made some big statements about tackling homelessness. I’ve read his statements in the news over the years before I started working here. I’m pleased and proud saying that he’s doing what he said and he’s put his money where his mouth is to tackle homelessness. All due respect to Mr Burnham for that. It’s not every person who gets another opportunity in life and a council willing to offer support and back them. It’s important that people understand that for many of us in society we’re just one pay cheque away from being homeless.
“There are some cases where people have made some bad choices but in many cases people have genuinely fallen on hard times. The vast majority of the time when people come in here they don’t see a future for themselves. We have to support all our residents and set a foundation for them to build from so that they can see a future for themselves again. We’re working with some of the most vulnerable people in society and fine margins can make a different to them. I have to tell some of them honestly that they need to change because I don’t want to read about them in the obituaries.”
As one resident, who did not want to be named, said: “If I was out on the streets I wouldn’t survive and be here to talk to you now to be honest.”
Gary and the team have built up their networks with people and businesses in the local community and as a result the shelter benefits from food donations from Tesco and Greggs and others as well as from local people.
“I cannot speak highly enough of the team here – they are the embodiment of dedication. We have people coming in on their days off to help our residents in order to help them be successful and move on. They do it because they really care about our people and the work we’re doing for them,” Gary added.
“A Bed Every Night needs some longevity to help us achieve even better results. It’s important we carry on with it and don’t just stop helping these people. Long may it continue.”
Carrie Jackson, is a project assistant for Riverside, working at the shelter. She said: “When I moved to Manchester and started walking around the city I couldn’t believe it. I got into this line of work because I really wanted to become part of solving the issue.
“A Bed Every Night is really important. People deserve a bed at night and some warmth, heating and light. People deserve the chance to better themselves and to have a second chance in life. It’s so important we give everyone that chance. It is hard but I love my job. I love seeing people gaining their independence back and moving on to a better place.”