In January 2019, we chose Barnabus as our Charity of the Year, all to give back to the community that’s always given so much to us.
Since then, we’ve volunteered our time at their drop-in centre and raised almost £1,000 by running the Great Manchester Run. Needless to say, we’ve learnt a few things about homelessness in Manchester along the way.
Here are just some of those insights…
The definition of homelessness is changing
Manchester City Council counted 94 official rough sleepers in Manchester in 2018. That’s a ‘sevenfold increase since 2010’, and the real figure is likely to be higher. In fact, Barnabus are helping up to 100 people a day in their centre.
This was one of the first eye-openers for us: we didn’t really have a full picture of the current situation in Manchester. People that don’t have a home to call their own aren’t necessarily sleeping on the streets, but they’re still worthy (and in need) of support.
It’s been hugely rewarding to not only help the homeless in some small way, but also to support an organisation that works tirelessly to empower people to become self-sufficient. Barnabus don’t stop once they’ve secured accommodation for someone; they keep going until they’re employed and living independently.
Demand for volunteers is always high
On one of our first visits to Barnabus, they said they couldn’t have opened the Beacon that day if we hadn’t come. Showers, the clothes exchange and medical examinations all rely on volunteers. If they don’t have the numbers, they can’t provide the services that so many people rely on.
It’s great when a large number of volunteers make short work of the roles available. But when we’re the only ones, it quickly becomes clear how necessary they are. Even just chatting with someone, being treated with respect and feeling like part of a community can be a lifeline for some.
The same’s true of donations. If Barnabus haven’t received enough funds and run low on milk, for example, they can’t give out certain hot drinks. If there’s a shortage of gifted clothing, Barnabus can’t run the exchange.
Support can have a life-changing impact
Since volunteering, we’ve seen people turn from service user to service supporter. Take Carl – he’s been going to Barnabus for a number of years. Last time we visited, he was donning a team jacket and manning the nurses’ registration form. He even told us all about his plans to jump out of a plane and raise funds for the charity!
Another individual had just been told that he’d be meeting a board about accommodation. After being given a change of clothes and getting a haircut, he looked no less sharp than someone prepping for a job interview.
This is Barnabus at their best. The drop-in centre is full of similar stories – these are just two examples of how providing the right facilities can help homeless people become independent.
And you can help…
There’s always plenty to do at Barnabus. With a hairdresser, nurse and a handful of volunteers, they refuse to let rough sleepers become statistics.
Interested in supporting a charity that’s combatting homelessness in Manchester? Barnabus are always looking for donations. Here are some of the items they need at their Bloom Street centre:
- Small men’s clothes, especially trousers up to waist 34”
- Small women’s bras
- Hats, scarves and clothes
- Fresh meat and veg
- Store cupboard items, like beans and custard
For more information about Barnabus, visit: www.barnabus-manchester.org.uk.