[Image: Melanie Onn MP visits Booth House Lifehouse in Grimsby]
Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn MP visited The Salvation Army’s Booth House Lifehouse on Monday (14 August 2017) to hear how government plans to change the way supported housing is funded could make it more difficult for the Church and charity to continue helping people who are experiencing homelessness.
The shadow housing minister met with staff and residents at The Salvation Army’s Booth House Lifehouse on Eleanor Street in Grimsby to see for herself how vulnerable men and women (aged 25 years old and above) are currently receiving tailored support to overcome obstacles in their life that led to homelessness.
Booth House Lifehouse is a 35-bed (en suite) self-catered facility that provides more than a bed for the night for people who are homeless. Tailored support is available as individuals find the help they need to overcome the challenges in their lives. The centre has a strong focus on resident engagement, encouraging people to be involved in the day-to-day running of the Lifehouse, which in turn provides a lifeline to people as they seek to address the issues around their homelessness and make positive decisions about their future.
Service Manager Shaun Stainton said:
“It’s important to us that our residents are the driving force for transformation – whether that’s in their own personal journey or in how we run the Lifehouse and its programme.
“When people walk through our doors for the first time, they have come from a variety of experiences of homelessness – from rough sleeping to sofa-surfing. However, what we want them to find from that first moment is that we see them for who they are not for the labels they’ve attached to themselves or have had prescribed by others. We want to show that we see their true value and worth and encourage them to see it as well.”
[Image: Service Manager Shaun Stainton hosts Melanie Onn MP at Booth House Lifehouse Grimsby]
Melanie Onn MP said: “The Salvation Army provides vital support services in Grimsby, helping get people back on their feet. We’re seeing more and more people becoming homeless today and The Salvation Army does excellent work in preventing them from having to sleep on the streets.
“It's worrying to see how the planned changes the Government are proposing to make to housing benefit would see the funding for sites like this cut. I will be raising this in Parliament in my role as Shadow Housing Minister.”
Residents take part in weekly meetings in their cluster groups (the 35 beds are grouped in to seven clusters of five rooms, with communal living areas) with a staff member to provide feedback on the service. The Booth House team is very proactive in responding and, says Shaun: “it’s the residents’ voices that shape our services – we want them to know they make a difference rather than having to accept only what’s put in front of them. While their stay with us is temporary, we want them to be empowered to make decisions, feel strong and better about themselves and to make a difference and see that what they say does count.”
Additional services at the centre include an onsite computer suite and additional support for employment, education and rehousing through the resettlement programme.
‘Alyson’*, who has been living at the centre for 10 months, spoke with Melanie Onn about her experiences of living at Booth House. Alyson said: “I’ve received a lot of support and it’s made a lot of difference, being helped to do things myself. When I first came to Booth House, I used to sit and cry all the time. I’d lost my husband – I’m still not over it, but I’ve had loads of help. I can tell the staff anything and it’s private, which is good.”
[Image: Service Manager Shaun Stainton presents Portraits book to Melanie Onn MP]
Since living at the centre, Alyson has obtained a mobility scooter to help her get around. She said: “The scooter hasService Manager Shaun Stainton presents Portraits book to Melanie Onn MPgiven me my freedom. I’ve had loads of help and I’m hoping to get a flat of my own. The staff have been excellent and my keyworker, has bent over backwards to help me. It’s been brilliant – I’ll miss them all when I move on.”
Assistant Regional Homelessness Services Manager (North-East Region) Major Gillian Coates said: “Today we’ve been able to demonstrate to the shadow housing minister the added value that services such as Booth House provide to people when they are at their most vulnerable. We have also raised with her the uncertainties services such as ours face when it comes to the future sustainability of supported housing funding.
“The Salvation Army is strongly committed to supporting current and future residents and we will do everything we can to continue providing the support that we know people want and need. However, if the Government’s current proposal is introduced as is, then our residents and services will be exposed to increasing levels of risk and uncertainty.
“We’re seeking a solution which offers vulnerable homeless residents and their communities the strongest possible guarantee that local services will remain operational and accessible under the new system.”