A UK Government minister toured a centre in Swindon yesterday (28 August) which supports people who have experienced homelessness to rebuild their lives.
Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance, Justin Tomlinson MP, visited the Salvation Army-run Booth House Lifehouse.
The Minister came to the centre to find out about the work done there to support people to get back into employment or volunteering after they have experienced homelessness.
Some Booth House residents go on The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus programme to get support to improve their job prospects. Employment Plus provides its clients with confidence-building and motivational sessions, a ‘Getting Ready for Work’ programme and support to help them learn IT skills so that they can search for jobs online. The programme’s clients can gain qualifications and go on work experience while specialist staff mentor them to develop their employability skills.
Booth House Lifehouse also gives its residents the chance to learn the skills they need to run a business through its Recycles and Sandwich People social enterprises, such as team work and effective communication.
Recycles sells refurbished second-hand bikes donated by members of the public and it also services and repairs bicycles. The Sandwich People makes sandwiches and other fresh food for its buffet services and its delivery round in Swindon.
Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance and MP for North Swindon, said: “It’s been wonderful to see the inspiring work being done at Swindon Lifehouse to build the confidence and employment opportunities of people who have experienced homelessness.
“Being in work means more than just a pay cheque – it’s good for your physical and mental health, it expands your social circle, and it helps you learn new skills. The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus programme is helping people access all of these benefits.”
Mr Tomlinson met Chris, a current resident at Booth House, who has received support through Employment Plus.
Chris said: “When I came in I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. It was nice to have someone who listened. I didn’t have a CV – to have someone to talk to, to help me pull together a two page advertisement for me, it was mind blowing. My confidence has been massively boosted.”
The Salvation Army’s Homelessness Services Unit runs Booth House Lifehouse. Swindon Borough Council commissions The Salvation Army’s Homeless Services Unit to provide support for clients who have experienced homelessness at Booth House Lifehouse.
Since it opened in 2007, Booth House Lifehouse has helped more than 700 people from the Swindon area who were experiencing homelessness.
Elizabeth Osborne, Service Manager at Booth House Lifehouse said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to Booth House and introduce him to our residents, staff and the work that we do here to support people from the Swindon area who have experienced homelessness.
“Employment Plus is one of the flagship programmes we provide here for our residents to equip them with the skills they need to find work so that they can go on to live independently and break the cycle of homelessness that many have found themselves in.
“Our social enterprises – Recycles and The Sandwich People, also provide our residents with an invaluable opportunity to get practical experience of working and of running a business –such as ordering supplies and dealing with customers.”
Mr Tomlinson met a number of former and current residents of Booth House during his visit, including Sam, who is a former resident and used to volunteer for The Sandwich People. She’s now in her own accommodation and is an employee through an apprenticeship scheme with a local college.
Sam said: “It was a good starting block for me to get back into employment. I enjoy it here. It was scary going out into the real world but I’ve learnt to prioritise what needs paying, like my bills, and I rent my own accommodation privately now.”
Pete, a former resident at Booth House, now volunteers at Recycles, he told the MP: “I volunteer every day we’re open. It’s such a calming atmosphere. Working in here is very good for your mental health, it can help with anger management too. Working on bike repairs makes you focus and anger can just disappear. What I find satisfying is when customers ask who made the bike they just bought, and they want to thank that person.”
Simon, workshop supervisor for Recycles, explained: “We can give people structured training, and people can leave us with a whole portfolio of skills. Working or volunteering here can also help with mental health issues, we can provide a safe environment where people can find something they can do - it’s good to be involved in the community, to have a sense of purpose. People always remember the first bike they built. When it gets bought and it goes out the door. There is a lot of pride in that. All the bikes have the name of who built them.”