Zarah Sultana MP visits Coventry housing drop-in service

published on 2 Oct 2023

Coventry South MP, Zarah Sultana saw how a local project, ‘Steps for Change’ run by The Salvation Army in collaboration with others reaches out to local people that need housing assistance or are at risk of homelessness. 

Volunteers and staff from Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, West Midlands Police and charities including The Salvation Army (homelessness services), The Arc, St. Basils, Open Hands, Job Shop, P3 and CGL (‘Change, Grow, Live’) work together to provide advice, support and specialist services to people in desperate need. 

The Council-contracted service offers support to people with a local connection and those from other areas seeking assistance with housing, substance misuse and homelessness.  The service has helped over 2,300 people from April 2022 to April 2023, double the number of people helped in the previous year*. 

Zarah Sultana MP visited Steps for Change in Coventry (September 2023).

At the visit, Zarah Sultana said:

“We live in one of the wealthiest countries on earth and yet thousands of people are forced to sleep on the streets each year. That’s a disgrace and it’s gotten so much worse since 2010 – it’s up 74% in that time.

“That’s why groups like Steps for Change are so important, helping out people here in Coventry who face the nightmare of homelessness”. 

The MP heard first-hand how one of the service users was one pay-packet away from homelessness, hearing how this individual had a middle-manager position that was lost during the COVID lockdowns. He is now receiving help from the service after losing his home. Zarah Sultana also heard how children and adults access the service – as young as 13 years old and up to 80 years of age. 

The number of people sleeping rough has surged amid the cost-of-living crisis. There has been a 26% rise in rough sleeping in England between 2021 and 2022[1].

The MP spoke to Harley West, who has used housing and homelessness services in Coventry

Programme manager at The Salvation Army Steps for Change centre, Lisa Smyth said: 

“More people are coming to us in a desperate state, as we see people unable to pay higher rents through the rising cost of living, affecting everyone. Some children turn up, having run away from services or home. Members of the public can talk to our support workers if they require accommodation and are currently homeless, or at risk of being made homeless. The Salvation Army outreach team are based here and we patrol around the city several times a day to identify people sleeping rough or anyone in need. We tell them about Steps for Change, available directly in the city or refer to other partner agencies as required”. 

There are many reasons why people become homeless including poverty, unemployment, childhood trauma, relationship breakdown, abuse, addiction, domestic violence, and ill health. People living on the streets are just the tip of the iceberg; there are also thousands who are 'hidden homeless', including children, without a proper place to live, sleeping on sofas, in cars or staying in B&Bs.

Lisa Smyth said: 

“We offer clothing and food bank vouchers, as well as refreshments. Keeping people cool and protected from the sun has been important in the hot weather and this changes as we approach the winter months when temperatures drop and vulnerable people need warmth, shelter and hot food. We are thankful to Zarah Sultana for coming to see us and offering to help with clients who may need her assistance if they need representation from their constituency MP.” 

The drop-in service is based at 8 City Arcade, Coventry. Its opening times are: Mon – Fri – 9.30am – 4.30pm.

Inside the centre

Additional notes: 

*1116 assisted between April 2021 to March 2022.

[1] The annual Rough Sleeping Snapshot in England Autumn 2022

The Salvation Army outreach team work alongside Coventry City Council rough sleepers team, that also patrols the city and refers rough sleepers into accommodation. 

The Salvation Army Lifehouse (supported accommodation) in Coventry offers 80 ensuite rooms for people needing supported accommodation. Our hostels are called Lifehouses because they not only provide safe accommodation for people who were sleeping rough but also counselling to address the root-cause of their homelessness so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

The Salvation Army provides a bed for 3000 people every night in 81 residential hostels, called Lifehouses, across the UK and Ireland. 

A Salvation Army volunteer wearing a red puffer jacket delivers a care package to an older woman

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