What is the business community doing?

Businesses are taking on the challenges of homelessness in Manchester.

To better understand and effectively respond to homelessness in Manchester we need to work together as a city. Businesses, charities, statutory organisations, and most importantly people who have a personal insight into homelessness. Please find to follow 3 recent examples detailing practical ways businesses are responding to this humanitarian crisis:

UBER – Covering Expensive Transport Costs

Cold weather puts enormous pressure on services and can be fatal for people who are sleeping rough. Budgets are tight and many charities spend £1000’s on taxis when public transport isn’t appropriate or available to get people into emergency accommodation – particularly in winter.

Uber have provided Street Support with a central account which is loaded with monthly credit that our charities can use to book trips for people – to get them safely into accommodation or to an important appointment. Since the 17th December over 200 trips have been made!

A massive thank you to James Kelly from Uber for making this happen. We hope the scheme continues and we are excited to see that it might be replicated elsewhere.

Coffee4Craig; ‘We used this when cold weather was triggered and we were getting guests accommodated in sit ups and hotels. It was a huge help for this as we were so busy. We made so many Uber trips in a night that I was worried we’d use all the credits and there wouldn’t be anything left for the other charities! Travel/taxis/buses can be a huge expense for charities and can be a hassle to arrange. This has been really beneficial.”

Shelter; “This service has been really useful. I used it for a client who was new to Manchester and had become homeless – she is a young single woman with no income at all because she was waiting for Universal Credit to start and had run out of money since her job finished. She couldn’t get an advanced payment because she was not a UK national and they have to do extra checks. We used Uber to get her into emergency accommodation – she would have really struggled to get there in the dark and on her own with no money and suitcases. A few days later we got her longer-term accommodation with a family under the ‘Host for Refugees’ scheme.”

Lloyds Bank – Opening Accounts For People Who Are Homeless

We can’t stress how important having a bank account is – it is an essential first step for people to register for benefits, access accommodation, get a job, and feel more confident. It was something everyone in the Partnership saw as a priority need.

The main barrier people with experience of homelessness face when trying to open an account is around ID, (but factors like confidence and perception are important too). Lloyds staff have been fantastic! Dedicated, hard-working, flexible and compassionate – starting from a place of raising-awareness and then building relationships.

By brilliantly finding ways to verify addresses and ID within existing bank regulations, a pilot scheme was developed with nearby charity Barnabus. Lloyds Bank on Market Street have now opened over 140 accounts for people who are homeless through partnerships with ten Manchester homeless charities. The scheme is rolling out to other branches in Greater Manchester and across the UK. This has also allowed us to start conversations with other banks too. The end goal is to give people who are homeless and who don’t have an account the same choice of who to bank with as anyone else.

Booth Centre“John first came in to the Booth centre after a period of rough sleeping, all he wanted to do was work but didn’t have a bank account and had had bad experiences of getting his benefits paid into a friends account. We had an initial appointment with Lloyds to get documents checked. On this occasion we used a benefits entitlement letter and an introduction letter. John went to the bank and opened the account within a week. Within the month he got a job with a local council which has given him security and brilliant career prospects.”

Barnabus“As the Resettlement Worker part of my role is to encourage people to gain confidence, self-worth and a belief that they can achieve anything they want to – this includes being involved in our society. I’ve noticed when I take people into Lloyds that nerves set in, I believe this is because a lot of my guys have been refused so many times before, which almost segregates them from society. I have built up a fantastic relationship with Lianne and Shane. I have a good understanding of the process so as I walk with them to Lloyds I always explain the whole process for reassurance (even to the most confident guys). I have had a real positive experience with Lloyds and having this in place has definitely helped my guys to get work, get benefits paid to a safe account, build confidence and helped them with their next transition into hopefully a better life.”

Space Zero – Renovations And Surplus Stock

Space Zero, an interior design company based in Manchester understand and are passionate about how environment can affect how you feel. After a meeting full of ideas and an awareness-raising session with the full team, we settled on two plans which use their skills and networks to meet people’s needs:

They’ve asked all of their supply chain organisations to channel any surplus. unneeded or slightly ‘faulty’ items (such as chairs in the wrong colour or slightly scratched hobs). These can items can furnish temporary accommodation for people who are homeless. The difference between accommodation and a home, (and how that makes people feel) is an often overlooked factor.

We are also looking to use their time and skills to do a renovation project for one of our homeless charity drop-in centres. Often people access a service after spending their first few nights on the streets – they may feel vulnerable, scared and confused, and centres can be noisy, chaotic and intimidating. We hope to make the reception spaces more welcoming and positive. This is in planning stages so watch this space!

‘Steve’, A Temporary Accommodation Resident“The state of your accommodation can add to and affect your already unstable mental health, that’s why when you walk into a hostel or a drop-in centre it’s got to feel like it’s not the worst thing in the world that you have become homeless.”

How Can You Help?

If you are a business, there are lots of ways you can get involved and contribute towards of mission of ending homelessness in all its forms. It might be something small or something larger, it doesn’t matter! Fresh ideas and innovations are always welcome.

Please get in touch with the Business Engagement Coordinator for the Manchester Homelessness Partnership: dee@streetsupport.net

Please also join our monthly business group network to meet like-minded organisations and find out what’s going on and what’s needed.

Note: If your business is struggling with incidents related to homelessness near your premises, please read Sharing Spaces our ‘storefront engagement’ guide.

Thanks for your time – we look forward to hearing from you.