The Army of Kind People.

On Tuesday, approximately 130 representatives from various faith groups attended the Greater Manchester Homelessness Faith Sector Summit to work together to tackle homelessness in Greater Manchester. Faith groups in attendance represented all ten GM boroughs who worked together towards agreeing collective action.

The event was kindly hosted by the Methodist Central Building and took place in the main hall, with a delicious spread of food on offer, courtesy of Near Neighbours. As well as people of faith, representatives from charities, housing associations and individuals that wanted to offer their help were also present. Wigwam kindly provided the sound system.

The event itself – which was no small task considering the number of individuals present! – was facilitated by many, including; Katie Finney and Maria Mayor (Amity), Beth Knowles (GMCA), Lily Axworthy (Greater Together Manchester), Samra Kanwal (Near Neighbours) and Viv Slack (Street Support Network), amongst others. A special mention in regards to facilitation shall be made to Ian Rutherford (Methodist Central Hall) who provided the space for the event.

All kinds of individuals were present, including people with lived experience of homelessness and the atmosphere was lively, with people of many different faiths liaising and enjoying the great food before the work started. A map showing the locations of services represented can be viewed here.

Workshops

After some brief talks from various representatives, work was started on the “4 R’s” from the GM Homelessness Network Action Plan – Reduction, Respite, Recovery, Reconnection.

Attendees split up into groups to discuss actions based on the aims of the 4 R’s. Below is a brief outline of the actions that resulted from these aims.

Reduction

Organisations or projects to encourage a coordinator to take a lead in connecting with other services, as well as helping to provide a human face for referral and keep Street Support Network’s info up-to-date. Connecting and sharing buildings and resources, needs and challenges, successes and learnings were also added as actions.

Respite

Improving communication by making more time to listen to what others are doing, want to do and seeking more ways to facilitate communication so we can learn and work together.

Recovery

The faith groups found it necessary to find out more about supported housing, which was a main point of discussion. Supported housing, it was said, should be more visible in their communities so that residents could access support and be-friending.

Reconnection

Several key points were made: 1) identification and indexing of of empty properties, as well as the housing and support needs of homeless people, based on their local area. 2) Partnerships with skills, training and education providers for renovation and refurbishment in order to build skills and volunteering opportunities. 3) Building partnerships between the faith sector and other organisations working to tackle homelessness in order to promote new models, innovation and best practice.

The full aims and actions from each workshop can be viewed here.

“It was an encouraging afternoon. It was great to see the faith community responding to the homelessness crisis. I’d like to see more of it and it was great to hear that we are being called the Army of Kind People. We [Barnabus] want to take our part in it and it was great to have the support of the Mayor’s Office as well.”

– Neil Cornthwaite, Beacon Manager.

“It was great to see so many come together from across the boroughs and faiths. I have a strong conviction that, as people of faith, we bring compassion, a sense of community and a restoration of hope. We are looking at how partnerships will develop as a result of this event. We now have similar events taking place in each borough and will then come back at the end of the year.”

– Rev. Ian Rutherford, Methodist Central Buildings.

Next Steps

The next steps, as Rev. Ian alluded to, will be for individual boroughs to meet, organise and then reconvene as a network by the end of the year.

Street Support Network are keen to include all services across Greater Manchester, including faith based services. If you are not yet listed, please register at streetsupport.net/register.

Stay tuned with Street Support Network to find out more about the collective mission to tackle homelessness in Greater Manchester.

#EndHomelessnessGM #GMFaithSummit