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Change4Good is a street outreach project supporting rough sleepers, beggars and the homeless community on the streets of Manchester City Centre.
Our aim is to get people off the streets and into appropriate accommodation and access to support, purely for the benefit of the individual. We are only focused on the best outcome for the individual and tailor our service to meet the unique needs of each vulnerable person.
Change4Good supports the most vulnerable on the streets of our society. We help anyone who calls the streets of Manchester their ‘home’ to access a proper home: you know the sort of home we mean – with four walls, an indoor bathroom, a central heating system and a door to lock at night to keep you safe.
We want to ensure that people are supported to access the most appropriate accommodation for them, so they do not end up back on the streets calling a doorway ‘home’.
To achieve this there are many barriers to overcome – poor physical and mental health, alcohol / drug use, lack of appropriate and affordable housing to name just a few. And let’s not forget the red tape and bureaucracy involved in dealing with local government.
Our work is frustrating and difficult; there is no one silver bullet to address the issue. We fail more than we succeed. But this should not be an excuse to give up. It means we need to be smarter and more focused on outcomes, not just activity.
Our approach is common sense; we go out onto the streets, sit down next to a vulnerable individual and ask how we can help. Simple. Let’s never forget the importance of human contact; we are social creatures and respond better to a smiling face.
Individuals have to want change; we do not force or cajole. We build relationships and foster trust through a simple engagement and chat. We treat them as a person, not a victim or charity case, and eventually support them to make informed positive choices that improve their own life outcomes now and into the future.
What we offer is a journey to a better life. We may offer suggestions and advice but the individual makes all choices that affect their life and future.
Quote from Amanda Croome, Booth Centre, Manchester (www.boothcentre.org.uk):
“The Booth Centre fully supports the work that the Change4Good is doing to help reduce the amount of begging in Manchester. Giving money to people begging just fuels people’s addictions and does nothing to help people to sort out their lives. Many of the people begging are not even homeless. If you want to help homeless people then the best way to do it is to support a local charity and give a donation to the charity box rather than to the person begging.”
Rachel Brennan, NHS, Urban Village Medical Practice: “Since first hearing about Change4Good I have been very impressed with the level of engagement and support they have been offering at street level. They proactively made contact with a wide range of organisations to promote effective working relationships and to ensure they were providing correct information to clients when signposting to services. As a health organisation we have been very impressed at the commitment of Change4Good in supporting people to access and engage with healthcare services and to ensure that health remains a priority throughout their engagement with clients. With homelessness increasing in Manchester and the level of unmet need I feel it is vital for a service to engage with people at street-level to provide support, advice and information in an informed and appropriate manner and yet many existing services do not have the capacity to do this therefore Change4Good is an extremely welcome service to promote engagement with services and to improve communication and integration between services.”
Change 4 Good’s aim is to help people rough sleeping on the streets of Manchester to access accommodation and professional support.
The Conversation- FAQ
Surely, it is a good thing to give a beggar a couple of coins?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people begging are drug addicts, and a large proportion of these are not rough sleeping but have accommodation of some sort. How do we know? They tell us when we sit down with them to ask what help they need or want. The problem in Manchester is a mental health and drug problem. A few coins for more drugs is no solution.
I don’t give money, I give them a sandwich, surely this can’t be harmful?
No one is starving on the streets of Manchester. We have first hand experience of rough sleepers telling us they don’t need to attend a support centre that day for a meal because they have already eaten and have a bagful of sandwiches. Without accessing professional support vulnerable individuals cannot change their situation. Giving a meal deal may make you feel better, but it does nothing for the individual sat on the street.
I’ve heard that the homeless have to pay for rooms in a hostel?
Hostel rent is covered through Housing Benefit, which hostel workers and other agencies will help the individual to claim once they have moved into the hostel.
Come on, people need a little help when they’re down on their luck?
We completely agree, but doing the wrong thing for the right reasons doesn’t help anyone. Supporting a drug habit doesn’t help, stopping someone from visiting a support centre doesn’t help, enabling someone to beg all day doesn’t help. That’s why we work on the streets 5 days a week supporting people to access accommodation and support.
If we don’t give them money then won’t they all just turn to crime?
Unfortunately, this is simply illogical; should we give criminals money in the hope that they won’t commit crime? Anyway, who said homeless people are criminals?
Be honest, you just want them off the streets because of the City’s image?
We do not work for or receive any funding from the Council, we run this project only for the benefit of vulnerable people in need. We do want them off the streets, but for their individual benefit and to protect their health.
Surely not everyone on the streets struggles with addiction?
Whilst we are not saying this, the point that we are trying to make is the link between begging and the misuse of hard drugs, not between homelessness and begging or homelessness and drug misuse. So the question you need to ask yourself is why are you handing over money? You cannot presume it will help that person, because from our experience it is having the opposite effect.
OK, you’ve convinced me, what should I do to help people get off the street and away from the dealers?
You should support a small local homeless charity that works front line with people in need. In Manchester we recommend The Booth Centre (www.boothcentre.org.uk) who do amazing work on a reducing budget. They get people into accommodation, into employment, open bank accounts,arrange for passports for foreigners to get home, offer free hot meals, showers, internet, phones etc. And one of the most important aspects, an opportunity for people to socialise, to feel normal, to make friends, to talk and to have someone listen.
Finally, we are not asking you to just ‘walk on by’ and ignore people who are begging or homeless.
By all means, engage homeless people in conversation, ask if you can help them, find out what help they need, make referrals to support agencies, or find the information yourself and give it to them.
But please don’t give money. Sadly, your kindness can kill and does!