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Shadowing Fund: Blackpool Community Homeless Project visits Manchester

Shadowing Fund: Blackpool Community Homeless Project visits Manchester

Shadowing Fund: Blackpool Community Homeless Project visits Manchester

Monday, February 24, 2020

At the end of last year, myself and my colleague Kevin from Blackpool Community Homeless Project had the opportunity to visit Manchester. Although we have been involved in supporting people who are experiencing homeless for a number of years, we both feel that continuing to learn from others is key.


When we arrived in Manchester, we noticed that the temperature had dropped since leaving Blackpool. Online, we saw that warnings of freezing temperatures had been put out. But also, that the local council had activated the Severe Weather Protocols, meaning that more beds would be made available for those sleeping rough.


Throughout Manchester we saw various ways that people are being supported and how awareness is being raised. One example of this support and awareness raising is the Big Change scheme. Big Change is a series of donation points in public spaces that allow people to donate to a local homeless charity. We saw this in place when we stopped to get a coffee. The coffee shop was promoting the Big Change scheme and had a donation point in the shop. Not only does this provide an easy way to donate, it also helps raise awareness of the local homeless situation.


One of the local charities that was being supported by Big Change is Barnabus. Barnabus operate a drop-in service where people can get advice and support, a warm meal or a space to relax. They help guide people to the support and services they need, helping on every step of the journey. When we met with Barnabus later that day, we were impressed by Alison and her team of workers and volunteers. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and people valued engaging with the services provided.

We spent several hours walking around Manchester, observing and speaking to those involved in supporting the local homeless community. Like Blackpool or anywhere, the homeless community presents as a complex and ever-changing situation that you can never predict or label.


We also spoke to two Police Community Support Officers who kindly took the time to brief us. We learned that in Manchester the level of homelessness had been recognised, plans and policies are being molded to best meet that crisis. The emphasis had switched from a ‘punishment to fit the crime’ to ‘how best to help the individual’. This change in approach recognises that solutions are not a one size fits all approach. Individuals should be treated as such and helped to access the support they need. We know from experience that putting someone in touch with what you perceive as the answer to their problem is just the start. In order to move forward, individuals need committed support and to have a say in this support.


After our trip to Manchester, we were inspired to try and use some of what we saw in Blackpool. We have started exploring the possibility of setting up our own Big Change scheme in Blackpool. This could be a valuable way of engaging our local community and helping to raise awareness. Additionally, we are looking to try and replicate some of the success that Barnabus has had in engaging service users. We already support people from streets to accommodation, however we know that not everyone is ready to be re-housed. We want to be able to support these people and are looking at setting up our own hub. This will be an informal, safe space that people can use to have a shower, relax and engage if they wish. We see this as an additional service to the support we already provide and are hoping it makes a real difference.


Have you ever wanted to find out more about how another service works or how a similar service in another area operates – what they do the same or differently to how you work? If so, we think one of the best ways to learn about them is to visit them.

Through the Frontline Network Shadowing Fund, you can apply for up to £500 to cover the cost of transport (and accommodation if it’s miles away!) to visit another organisation. Find out more about the fund here.

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