Hope Coventry’s Mission Statement:- “growing a connected church that demonstrates the love of Jesus for the benefit of the city”
We’ve now started supporting Hope Coventry in the quest to address the situation of homelessness in our city. Have a look at the work they are doing. By partnering with us – whether it be as a tenant, a landlord or an agency, you too are now linked to this worthwhile cause, and are in some way giving a helping hand to improve the lives of others.
Hope Coventry are responsible for the Coventry Night Shelter where they are giving a helping hand and providing food and accommodation over the winter months to unfortunate people in our city who find themselves homeless and without a bed for the night. If you’d like to read more, please have take a look at the report below which was compiled at the end of the 2014/2015 winter season. I’m sure, like me, you will see the benefit of joining with us and giving a helping hand to those who so desperately need it.
Thank you for your commitment to us and also to Hope Coventry.
The following report is published with kind permission from Hope Coventry
If you want to know more you can email Stacey Kelly or contact the HOPE office on:
8A Market Place
Press & media only:
Please email Tim Coleman or tel: 02477 712401
Coventry Winter Night Shelter
2014/2015 – End of Project Report 2015
The eleven week pilot project of last Winter (2013/14) proved that it was possible to successfully provide overnight shelter for up to twenty individuals (guests) and raise sufficient funds in order to sustain the financial cost in terms of; venues, staffing and volunteers, equipment, transport and food. In addition, it was identified that as part of this process, it was also possible to influence and support guests into more sustainable accommodation.
CWNS began the Winter of 2014/15 with a clear objective to work with those who found themselves either street homeless, or ‘at risk’ of being street homeless, in order to help facilitate them finding mutually agreed and appropriate accommodation. This would be carried out in partnership and in support of the homelessness services and in particular, the Salvation Army ‘Rough Sleeper’ team.
Additionally, CWNS would communicate its experiences and seek to influence the scope and quality of future delivery of services to the homeless.
The project operated from 1st December 2014 until 31st March 2015 operating on consecutive nights around 7 shelter venues (except for a 5 day period, which was given over to a long standing Christmas shelter organisation 24th – 28th Dec), a total of 116 nights.
Everything ran along the same lines as the pilot project with the exception of a change of venue for Wednesday nights and extra camp beds being purchased to supply each venue with their own set of 20 negating the need for daily transport of equipment.
The Volunteers and Venues
CWNS once again operated 3 shifts per day over 7 days requiring 10 volunteers per day (4+3+3 minimum) over 121 days = 1210 person-shifts. We more often than not, operated with numbers over and above those required during the evening shifts and very occasionally below on the night and morning shifts.
During the run up to the winter there was a slow but steady trickle of people putting themselves forward up until the training event (Held at CLM – Welcome Centre for which we are very grateful), whereupon the necessary target was met. Unlike the pilot project, there was more time to recruit and a base of enthusiasm to build on. A note of caution would be that of the pressures on staffing attributed to a 4 month operating period. Volunteers were again asked to provide two referees in support of their application.
CWNS is indebted to the effort put in by Teresa Wallace who coordinated all the
applications and enquiries from volunteers and supporters.
This winter an estimated 300 volunteers have become involved, with a number having taken part last year. A very well attended training event was held prior to project starting, which concentrated on sharing the experiences of the pilot project. As the winter progressed, a number of former guests (10) became involved in volunteering and crucially covered a number of shifts at short notice. This, together with a few new recruits helped to fill some gaps in overnight shifts that began to appear towards the end of January. It is likely that fatigue had a part to play with those shifts that relied upon a hardy few.
None the less there has once again been an amazing response to our appeal. The CWNS Facebook page, one way in which were able to keep volunteers and interested parties informed could receive more than 2,000 views and substantial numbers of positive and/or supportive comments, as follows;
As we prepare our last night shelter of this Winter this evening, I just wanted to give you a quick update on what has been achieved……
We have been helped by somewhere around 300 different volunteers over the 4 months of operation.
We have had around 150 different guests stay at least one night.
We have provided 1800+ bed-nights….
Examples of comments made throughout the project
- “A fantastic achievement and I feel very proud to have been a part of it again”
- “I have done the washing for one of the night shelters for the second year running and I can’t believe how quickly it has gone by this year. Well done to everyone”
- “Well done and a huge thank you to all of you. Love the fact that different organisations are coming alongside you too.”
- It’s a privilege to be part of this.”
The minimum number of volunteer hours necessary to make this project work is 5,445 which when multiplied by the minimum wage of £6.70 equates to £36,481.50 but the actual value of their contribution has been priceless!
Saturday: St Columba’s URC – Canal Basin
Sunday: St Anne & All Saints CofE – Charterhouse
Monday: St Paul’s CofE – Foleshill
Tuesday: St George’s CofE – Coundon
Wednesday: St Osburg’s RC – Coundon
Thursday: Salvation Army Citadel – Upper Well Street
Friday: St Oswald’s CofE – Tile Hill
With the exception of a change to the Wednesday night venue, everything stayed more or less the same as the previous winter. The addition of shower facilities at the Monday and Thursday venues added a new and positive dimension to CWNS and was most welcomed by all the guests.
Transport to the Friday night venue in Tile Hill also changed, the result of Emmaus Coventry being unable to participate this winter. We used a combination of a privately owned – owner/driver minibus, a vehicle owned by Jubilee Church Coventry with volunteer drivers and an occasional commercial minibus/driver.
CWNS- Guests and Outcomes
A full synopsis of data including details of the guest outcomes has been made available to the CWNS Steering Group and partner agencies, but in brief is as follows;
Guests Registered & stayed one night or more = 169
Total bed-nights provided = 1849
A number of guests made their own arrangements in terms of ‘moving on’ and we hope benefitted from their time with us but those where CWNs played an active part are as follows;
Guests helped to ‘Moved on’ ……. = 88
Although much of our effort has been in supporting our guests into accommodation for which we have shown in the figures above, we have also encouraged and helped a number of guests into work or at least got them into a position where they could be employable and/or feel able to consider employment.
The very nature of becoming street homeless damages the ability of a person to function normally, irrespective of the numerous different and often complex circumstances which led to their predicament. The experience of the CWNS project found that only a handful of our guests that became homeless whilst employed managed to carry on working through the process. Most guests were unemployed but even if technically available, they are disadvantaged by being of no fixed abode and elements associated to not having stable living accommodation.
We therefore sought to use some of our available funds to help support guests back into work. More often than not our guests lacked the disposable income and needed help funding things as simple as personal identification documents, travel expenses to make appointments and suitable work-wear. But much more than this, were the positive effects of living within the caring environment of CWNS and the dedication of all staff, had on raising of self-esteem to levels conducive to becoming employable.
What made this possible?
First and foremost, the overwhelming hospitality, love and care shown by everyone our volunteers at all of our venues, night after night for four months, created an environment where trust could be developed and barriers could be broken down.
Quite early on in the process, it became clear that Dawn McNeish and Anna Palmer (seconded to the project on a 50% basis) from the Salvation Army ‘Rough Sleeper’ team, were both passionate and very capable at making the necessary accommodation links and working alongside the guests to establish the best possible outcomes, as well as being well backed up by other members of the team.
A word of caution……. This entailed working with a substantial number of individuals with complex issues, creating an emotional rollercoaster ride for all concerned and one which would be very difficult to sustain beyond this current fixed period of operation…….. but it did work very well!
The number of guests that returned as volunteers was testament to their heartfelt appreciation for the effort that had been put into helping them. Their willingness to fill shifts, often at short notice was invaluable to the project.
Quotes from guests include……
“I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me to be with people who really care about me”
“My mum has noticed a massive difference in me and is talking to me and treating me like she used to!”
“I’m eating so well I’ve put two stone on and haven’t taken anything (drugs) for five weeks!”
The efforts of all the volunteers along with the camaraderie which developed within the shelters, helped not only raise the spirits and self-esteem of the guests, but gradually built capacity with individuals and empowered them as a group. Through careful and considerate mentoring, guests also developed skills enabling them to better engage with service providers.
Many of the guests were enabled to form some longer term relationships with their peers, which will serve them well and help prevent them leading lonely and isolated lives. We have seen some very long term rough sleepers start to turn their lives around.
Part of the finance donated to the project this year was allocated to a moving-on fund. An administrative process to manage this fund appropriately was developed in conjunction with Ann Hawker of the Jesus Centre. This process ensured that each client could receive only one payment in the duration of the project and ensured that all usual funding streams were unavailable or had been exhausted. (Please see Appendix 2)
CWNS, set an estimated budget based upon the experience gained from the shorter pilot project. The period of operation increased from 11 weeks to 19 weeks as did the expectation that we could be more proactive in working to find more sustainable accommodation outcomes for our guests. This inevitably meant higher costs and greater funding requirements, but due to the generosity of a number of organisations, churches and individuals including a number of gifts in kind, a healthy set of accounts were kept.
Carry forward 5,439.02
In Kind Estimate ** 7,937.00
Staff costs and expenses 13,104.56
Venue Costs 4,416.10
Relocation & Rehousing 6,584.03
In Kind Estimate (food, equip, venue costs)** 7,937.00
Cost per bed night estimate 24.00
Carry Forward to 2015/16 5,137.40
** The ‘In Kind’ estimate does not include the hundreds of hours donated to the project by the many volunteers, which was priceless.
The success of CWNS is by way of being a body of committed citizens managed independently by Hope Coventry, a cooperative of local Churches, and in partnership with homelessness services.
By this I mean……….
First and foremost, it is both the number and the variety of the skills and experiences of all the volunteers that make a difference that could not be matched by the basics offered through service provision.
By working in active partnership, the independent nature of a Church with a social conscience, can positively influence in areas where statutory responsibilities exist. This has mutual benefits for all parties and vastly improves the outcomes for the client group.
Operating for the 19 week 1st Dec to 31st March, naturally increased the costs compared to the 11 week pilot project of last winter but also put a strain on the resilience of our pool of volunteers to sustain the necessary staffing levels.
Early consideration will need to be given to the way in which any future winter is resourced.
All of the venues appear happy to continue with this project into next winter but the consensus would be not to go beyond the 19 week period. Other Churches have expressed an interest to become involved which may enable the period of responsibility to be shared, but further enquiries will need to be made and followed up. This in turn could better enable an extension of the period perhaps to 1st Nov, but the financial implications would also then need to be resolved were that the case.
A number of our volunteers are Church-centric and therefore the addition of new venues would likely encourage more people to come forward and increase the available pool.
Due to the complex issues surrounding our clients and the building of relationships with them over the duration of the project it is recommended that any future training should have a greater emphasis upon safeguarding than has been included previously.
We learned very quickly that we could be more effective in helping our guests to move on into more sustainable accommodation, but that it came at a cost, in terms of both finance and in maintaining the necessary energy levels of those members of staff who became actively involved. Future consideration would need to be given to how this could best be resolved.
Day Centre Provision…….
There is a lack of provision during the day for those who are homeless, which seems to encourage offending by way of ‘being something to do’ or ‘having somewhere to go’. In addition, being homeless with mental health needs increases the feeling of isolation, depression and worthlessness etc, by being left to wander the streets, being cold, damp and wet. The appeal of drinking alcohol or using drugs is raised, in order to help forget, numb, or neutralise the situation they are facing.
Overcoming this, in particular through the winter period, will greatly reduce the risk to vulnerable individuals and in turn to the community as a whole.
There are a disproportionate number of those with underlying mental health issues trying to access accommodation and in need of more proactive approach from MH Services, especially towards discharging those with no fixed abode. We have witnessed a number of individuals in this category in need of professional support and the resulting detrimental effect they have on others in the community.
A dialogue has begun between the different services and agencies. The mental health service providers were reminded of their statutory obligations and pointed to examples of effective practice outlined as part of a report commissioned by Government in 2012. (Report compiled by Homeless Link and St Mungo’s charity published 28th May 2012). Some of our most vulnerable citizens remain at unnecessary risk. We await follow up from an initial meeting that took place in April 2015 that will provide necessary assurances regarding discharge liaison and information sharing ahead of agreeing to run a CWNS project in the winter of 2015/2016.
There seems to be an inconsistency in the way in which offenders of no fixed abode are released from prison and managed in the community, which has caused some concerns with regard to the potential risks posed to themselves, fellow guests, staff and volunteers. As with the aforementioned MH issues, CWNS will need to seek assurances from the probation service that pertinent information will be made available so that any risk assessment taken of an individual prior to entry to the night shelter will be reasonably based upon accurate personal information.
There were 9 people who used the night shelter who were under 25 years of age. It has been sad to see so many young people in need of our service through the winter and there does seem to need much greater attention paid to this area. That having been said, it has been most rewarding to play a part in some of the positive outcomes that have resulted.
‘Homelessness caused by intent’
‘Intentionally Homeless’ is an all too often misused term which generally describes a situation where an individual is deemed to be complicit in them having become homeless. It is also the term used to describe the outcome of someone having been excluded from our services too. However, where someone’s behaviour presents a risk to others causing them to be excluded, we introduced term ‘Deliberately Inadmissible’. In other words, it is not actions of the service causing their homelessness, rather the actions of the individual disqualifying themselves from the service provision offered.
Rights to receive shelter implications etc……..
Exclusions that were made were more often than not temporary and short term but did result in a few being excluded for the duration of the project. These actions were not taken without careful consideration of the consequences and were in keeping with the client agreement that had been previously explained and signed. This helped towards the protection of our volunteers and guests alike and avoided vulnerable characters being exposed to abusive, threatening, intimidating, aggressive or violent behaviour from a few individuals and the resultant fear filled environment and/or the subsequent disengagement of those who may otherwise access the service.
This project has successfully managed to lift a number of people from the depths of despair and seen them begin to get their lives back on track. Doubtless there will a need along with calls for this project to continue for the foreseeable future and it will slowly lose its novelty status and become ‘the way we’ve always done it’. To this end there is a need to quickly establish a network of support and with a commitment beyond the end of each winter as follows;
Financial; Secure commitment to funding from existing sources and seek more consistent giving in order to be able to properly plan ahead. CWNS will need to seek early commitment from both the City Council and the Diocese and actively pursue a means to secure on-going financial commitment, initially from existing donors and supporters and subsequently seeking to expand the funding base.
Venues & Volunteers; Recruit new venues which, by its nature, will add to the volunteer portfolio.
Staffing: Although the project has run to date with one employed member of staff, the project coordinator this is not deemed to be a sustainable model. Subsequent projects will require a part-time assistant coordinator.
Political; The independent nature of the Coventry Winter Night Shelter project, has given us an insight into homelessness services in the City and the barriers that exist for this disadvantaged group of people. This presents us with the opportunity to offer our informed critical opinion where necessary and appropriate and thus give them a voice.
Coventry Winter Night Shelter
Appendix 1 – Classification of ‘Reasons to be Homeless’
Over the period of the CWNS, the project coordinator has developed an independent insight into the different categories of ‘Reasons to be Homeless’. If each of these descriptions related to a box to tick, many of our guests would tick more than one box and a few could tick many boxes.
The ‘Rough Sleeper’ – Traditional
The name ‘Rough Sleeper’ is a confusing term and is used to generally describe someone who would otherwise have no alternative other than to sleep outside, unless offered free accommodation, or that chooses to live outside.
A guy recently said to me “I am not homeless, I am a rough sleeper”. He has lived on our streets for more than twenty years and has no intention of changing. The stress of the financial demands of running a home caused him to leave it all behind and move out. No bills to pay but no income either and as with a select group, makes no claims on the state either (very often claim no benefits). This is a very difficult group to engage with and we are unlikely to see them in a shelter unless the weather becomes especially cold. I would describe this category as eccentric, gentle, pleasant and determined. More often than not, they are invisible to us, choosing to secrete their sleeping quarters away from public gaze.
The ‘Street Beggar’
There is somewhat of an overlap between this group and the previous one, often in the deliberate pursuit of benefitting from the generosity of the passing community. When you see someone on the street in a highly visible position asking for money and implying that they are homeless, it is easy to believe that this must be the case, but I have come to doubt that this is true in a lot of cases. Where a single individual has access to public funds and benefits, I would doubt that they were significantly worse off than those with families or supporting dependents. It may be necessary however, in order to support a dependency.
Begging falls into three categories……..
1) Passive: Where the look, position or demeanour, suggests that contributions are welcome but no request is made.
2) Active: Where a collecting bowl is apparent and the person is generally positioned on a busy route where the footfall is greatest.
3) Aggressive: Where the person is either situated next to a place where it is necessary for people to get money out (ie; car park pay machines and shops) or where an individual makes a direct approach to people (often vulnerable ie; elderly, single female).
Not to be confused with busking, where some form of service/entertainment is offered.
The ‘Street Thief’
There are those who steal out of desperation but this group prey on anyone and everyone and often hold nothing as sacred. They are constantly looking out for opportunities to steal, even from each other or those striving to help them. It may well be to feed a habit but not everyone with a habit resorts to crime.
Around 50% of our guests have some record of offending across the whole spectrum. We endeavour not to be judgemental but we do look to protect our guests and volunteers alike from the potential of harm. We therefore occasionally refuse our service to a few individuals.
The ‘Alcohol Dependent’
This is quite a strong category within homelessness. A few drink because they are on the streets but I think that most become homeless as the result of drinking. A few that we see are maintenance drinkers that require a permanent level of alcohol in their system to prevent them fitting. I find that there are broadly two types of drinkers that we have to deal with; those that want to fight the world when drunk and those that want to fall in love with everyone. The latter are much easier to deal with and usually settle down quickly and sleep. The former more difficult to bear and are often verbally aggressive, but thankfully rarely physically so, however the atmosphere can rapidly degenerate to that of fear and apprehension, if they are allowed to remain in the night shelter once they become aggressive.
The ‘Drug Dependent’
Much harder to spot than an alcoholic and tend to be more deceptive, usually choosing to conceal their addiction, or suggest that they have it beaten. Those who take hard class ‘A’ drugs at this level will be more likely than not to be engaged in criminal behaviour in order to support their habit. Any opportunity to make financial gain to raise money seems to be taken, including stealing from friends and grabbing anything that has any value no matter how small.
The ‘Mentally Wounded’
This is the category that worries me the most and involves those people who have underlying mental health issues that fall below that which would cause them to be statutorily accommodated (sectioned). Their behaviour can swing between presenting as relatively normal, to being bizarre and disturbing. The official line is that they have capacity to make choices as to how they live, but the sad truth is that they just find it difficult to engage and comply with services and impossible to fit in with service provision and especially find it difficult to cope with any of the current accommodation solutions. We do our best to cope where we can but we do not have the specialist training to be able to deal with the resulting behaviour, whilst protecting the other guests and volunteers alike.
For many, it is a case of their life coming off the rails in some way and the failure of plan ‘A’ but for a few, life has never been on track and there never was a plan ’A’. Life for some has always been in chaos, with little or no positive or steady role models to work from, hence the replication of a life living day to day and hand to mouth.
The ‘Domestic Violence Victim’
We don’t see too many of this category (rather more the perpetrators). A homeless night shelter is never an appropriate placement in these circumstances but we have provided a handful of nights, when called upon to do so.
So many of those we come into contact with have debts, ranging from a few pounds of rent arrears to several thousand pounds worth of debt, including those to criminal groups such as drug dealers. This can seriously inhibit their ability to secure accommodation and often disqualifies them from social housing stock. It can also cause them to live in fear and force them further into criminal behaviour.
Relationship breakdowns are a common cause of homelessness and come in many different guises. They are more often than not accompanied by one or more of the aforementioned categories but nearly always leave an individual emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to increased substance abuse.
‘No Local Connection’
There are a variety of rules surrounding this (Adopted Nationally) category, but it is effectively seeking to preserve social housing stock for those who have a strong connection to Coventry ie; lived here or have close family here. This does of course mean that someone without any connection ie; from abroad or even Nuneaton, cannot access social housing in the city. This does not however affect their entitlement to housing benefit. The uncomfortable part of this is that someone from another country, given leave to remain in Coventry, has access, whilst someone from Bulkington does not.
‘No Recourse to Public Funds’
A very complicated and ever changing set of rules designed to prevent economic refugees making benefit claims in the UK. Most are willing to work but often fall into the hands of unscrupulous employers, who pay way below the minimum wage and offer none of the normal safeguards. This in turn makes accommodation difficult to find, which is causing the development of a sub-culture operated by criminals. This group suffer extra difficulties in being able to access services when subject to illness, dependencies or relationship issues.