With the seasonal unpredictability of the weather and an equally unpredictable economic climate, altblackpool’s Caroline Fisher spoke to Jane Hugo of Streetlife, a charity committed to providing temporary shelter for homeless individuals, to find out more about their service:
Caroline Fisher: Can you tell us about who you are, what you do and when you were established?
Jane Hugo: Streetlife is a local Blackpool charity which was established in 1882 by the town centre churches. It was set up as a youth worker charity to support vulnerable young people in Blackpool. We operate a day centre on Buchanan St and a nightshelter next to St John’s church.
CF: Can you tell us more about the upcoming changes to the shelter?
JH: Young people have been asking us to open earlier for a while and it seems obvious that it must be awful having to wander around town until 9pm not knowing if you have a bed for the night or not. We have been trying to get extra funding so that we can manage to open early and the Council helped us to secure funds from the PCT. We will be opening from 7pm tonight for a year (lets hope they continue the funding after 12 months).
CF: How do your service users find you?
JH: We try to publicise everywhere we can. The Council , Police, Samaritans soup kitchens, street angels, The Salvation Army, schools etc. but its an ongoing task and sometimes staff move on and the new workers don’t know about us. We have found out recently that three or four young people have been sleeping rough because they didn’t know about us straight away. This is really worrying and upsetting, the thought that we may have an empty bed and someone out there needs it and doesn’t know.
CF: Do any local businesses help you out in any way?
JH: Yes, we get regular support from the bakery on Topping Street, Trevor’s Warehouse, Warburtons, Glasdon‘s and B&Q. Lots of others give us occasional support. We are have just started a ‘Food for Thought’ campaign whereby local restaurants can give a meal a fortnight for everyone in the shelter and we will publicise it on Facebook and in the Gazette. So far Buddiez Grill has pledged to do this (it was his idea).
CF: How do you raise funds?
JH: We receive grants from Comic Relief, Children in Need, Tudor Trust, Ministry of Justice, Supporting People and the Council. We also receive donations from the public, churches, schools and businesses. Our staff and volunteers organise sponsored events. Currently, Claudia is training for a ‘wolf run’!
CF: Are you expecting a rise in demand once the government’s austerity measures regarding housing benefit take place in April?
JH: Yes. There are lots of factors that lead to us expecting an increase in demand, i.e. Housing Benefit, lack of affordable accommodation (Layton flats are going, HMO‘s closing), pressure on families causing relationship breakdown, alcohol dependency and violence.
CF: What can the public do to help?
JH: The main thing is SPREAD THE WORD. Go to our website and use the link to ‘like’ our facebook page. Share our statuses. If you are part of a group we can come and tell you more about our work and/or you can come on a visit. We are always recruiting local volunteers who are interested in working with young people or helping us with PR and donations (however modest) of money and/or food are always welcome.
For an insightful view into the work of Streetlife, watch Hidden, an alternative view from the streets:
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