Come And Have A Dig In The Bosco Garden!

gardenWith Spring just around the corner now is the time to be thinking about digging over the soil and preparing the land for planting. And this is exactly what is happening at Bosco House.

But this is gardening with a difference, as project coordinator Alan Matthews explains: “In recent years there has been a significant upswing of interest in the therapeutic value of gardens that are specifically designed to address a variety of applications within healthcare, rehabilitation, and other therapeutic settings.”

“We aim to develop the gardens at Bosco House to enhance the health and wellbeing of our residents, our volunteers and staff, and those who have experienced substance misuse issues. We are going to provide learning opportunities for clients (growing and cooking their own food, marketing, selling produce, etc.), recreational activities for local volunteers, and therapeutic benefit to those with substance misuse issues.”

“The value in this project is not merely filling the time with meaningful activity but, as horticulture is governed by the seasons, using the forward planning necessary to run a garden helps the individual to focus on the future as part of their recovery journey. Moreover, given the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables and market the produce will provide valuable learning, increase self-confidence, enhance life skills, and a pathway to employment.”

“We have discussed this initiative at our weekly resident’s meetings and Lifeline’s community development worker has consulted their clients; the idea has been enthusiastically received. We are also working in partnership with several other organisations, too, such as Hugh Baird College and The Brink, a ‘dry’ bar and restaurant ran by and for former substance misusers. Everyone can see the value of the project and are keen to be involved.”

Hugh Baird College is backing the project with a proposed one afternoon per week taster course that will earn participants a certificate of attendance.

So, if you fancy having a dig, give Alan a ring on 0151 944 1818.

Number Of Rough Sleeper Up By A Third Last Year

Over the past five years the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England has doubled, whilst in the past year the figure has gone up by a third. Recently released government figures reveal an estimated 3,569 people are sleeping on streets on any one night.

And even though these are national figures, the impact is being felt here in Sefton. Bosco manager, Sheila Howard, said: “Even though we’ve only been running the sit-up service since last July, we’ve noticed a greater uptake of the service recently. Just in the past few weeks our service has been full most nights.”

“This could be because of the recent cold weather, obviously, but it could also be that the service is getting more widely known amongst rough sleepers. You only have to look at the increase in people sleeping on the streets in Liverpool city centre during the day to see this.”

Neil Baynes, Managing Director at New Start, agrees: “We have seen an increase in numbers using our sit-up service in Southport. You would expect more people to turn up in the winter, but there is a general perception that the situation is getting worse.”

This was reflected in the comments of Jon Sparkes, CEO of Crisis. He told The Guardian: “There are practical and immediate measures the government can take to tackle rough sleeping and other forms of homelessness. With the average age of death for rough sleepers being just 47, they must act now.”

Worryingly, it is reported that 40% of rough sleepers in London suffer with mental health problems, and this rises to over half of when taken across the UK as a whole. Most rough sleepers with mental health problems are homeless for longer because they find it harder to access support. In 2014-15, 17 of the 25 people who died while sleeping rough on the streets of London, that were known to services, had mental health needs.

A report by St. Mungo’s, Stop The Scandal, notes that many specialist homelessness mental health teams have closed as a result of funding cuts. On average, local authority funding for services to help vulnerable people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015.

With the Chancellor, George Osborne, threatening to make more cuts in his next budget, it seems things are unlikely to get better any time soon.

President Obama Committed To Tackling Homelessness

Here in England the government seems to be intent on hurting the most vulnerable, particularly the homeless, in our society. On the other side of the pond, however, US President Barrack Obama seems to have set off in the opposite direction by announcing a goal to “eliminate child and family homelessness by 2020.”

Writing in The Guardian, Mary O’Hara says that these are not just empty words. The President has put in a request to Congress to raise over $10bn in the coming fiscal year budget, specifically to help homeless families and children. The Homeless Assistance For Families proposal is seen as yet another sign that homelessness is being taken seriously at national level.

However, as with anything the President proposes, the success of this plan depends on whether Congress agrees to allocate the funds. Even though there hasn’t exactly been a cordial relationship between the White House and Congress, if the proposal does pass it could be life-changing for tens of thousands of destitute families.

Despite an overall reduction in homelessness over the past few years (down 10% since 2010) it is estimated that more than 64,000 families, including 130,000 children, are homeless on any one night in the USA.

But according to Nan Roman, chief executive of the National Alliance To End Homelessness, the proposal would “give communities exactly what they need to end homelessness for families with children once and for all.”

What is crucial about the president’s proposal, says Roman, is that the funds will be designated as “mandatory”, meaning the federal government would be responsible for allocating the money and the funding wouldn’t be subject to the vagaries of annual budget renegotiations. (In the UK this used to be known as ‘ring-fenced’ – a rare bird these days!)

As Mary O’Hara points out: “It wasn’t that long ago when campaigners in the US could look to Britain as a place committed to investing resources in reducing homelessness and hold it up as evidence of what works. Not any more.”

Bosco Walking Group Takes Great Strides

Bosco-Walking-GroupThe walking group at Boscop House has started up again after taking a break for a few months. So far the group has taken on three walks that have provided both a challenge and enjoyment for all involved.

One of the walkers, Stephen, said: “My experience on these walks has been exactly what I looked forward too; feeling alive and active with excitement. Going on adventures in new locations, persevering, being intuitive and brave finding new routes when we got stuck or lost or in doubt. Being part of a team/family and sharing these experiences together with friendly people from different backgrounds and ages. We are all enthusiastic and excited towards each adventure from my perspective.”

“The first walk was at Crosby beach up to Formby,” said Stephen. “It was a cloudy and very windy day, which made the day feel more like we were really out in the elements; sand hitting our faces and the waves crashing against the banks spraying water over parts of the walk. I personally enjoyed those parts too, because that’s what makes an authentic outdoors walk/adventure feel alive if that’s what you’re after.”

“Half way there we stopped at a local outdoors service and got chips and the best hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallow’s to top it off. The chips we had left over we threw to the birds, getting the seagulls to catch them in mid-air and a whole gang of small black birds came straight up to us almost close enough to feed from our hands.”

“Walking back was tough. I had never walked that distance in the boots I had that day and realised I needed to add soles to cushion my feet. I could barely walk in the end, but I persevered with the help of my friend and having a laugh on the walk back kept it fun. The good thing about these walks too is that you form bonds and memories with people.”

Another walker in the group, Vicky, said: “I really enjoyed our first walk. As a group we got the bus to Garston and walked back to Bosco House along the River Mersey. It was great to get to know staff and other residents away from the hostel environment. We all had a good laugh!”

“Even though we got drenched by cars splashing us with puddles of rain on dock road, we all felt a sense of achievement,” she added.

Stephen also commented about a walk along the Cheshire Lines: “This was a nine to ten mile walk, a bit more than our previous one. I was more prepared this time, added inner cushioning to the soles of my boots and an extra pair of footwear in my gym bag just in case.”

“The path was a bit more challenging this time because the mud was slippy on some of the paths, so the boots came in handy. We were walking through fields and trails, which was awesome. The scenery was great we had blue skies with white clouds and the vast open fields and distant woodlands were very visible. There were animals too, herds of sheep and some cows.”

“We eventually got to a bridge and the side we needed to be on had no path to get down. We found a small ledge to jump down and I was made up the others climbed down, because some people would stop in their tracks and they did it and it was one of those moments in an adventure were you feel like you’re doing what you got to do to get past an obstacle.”

“This always makes the adventure feel complete after moments like that. I had a great time anyway and it’s all been an awesome experience.”

Bosco support worker, James, said: “We started mid January and aim to improve health and to socialise and have a good laugh. We started with a nine mile Mersey River walk, which was followed by a Crosby walk to Burbo Bank, which was 8 1/2 miles. The latest walk was a Cheshire Lines walk in Lydiate.”

“It’s a great way to get fit and enjoy a group experience. There are more walks planned for the future and we’re all looking forward to getting outdoors again soon.”

Wealthy Jerk Doesn’t Want To See The Homeless

A wealthy American businessman has caused outrage after writing an open letter complaining about the homeless – who he refers to as “riff raff” – he encounters on his way to work.

Justin Keller, founder of web business, wrote the letter to the mayor and police chief of San Francisco to voice his “concern and outrage over the increasing homeless and drug problem that the city is faced with. I’ve been living in SF for over three years and without a doubt it is the worst it has ever been.”

“Every day, on my way to and from work, I see people sprawled across the sidewalk, tent cities, human feces and the faces of addiction. The city is becoming a shanty town … Worst of all, it is unsafe,” he wrote.

Amazingly, Keller said that because he had worked hard and made a lot of money he should not have to be confronted with such sights.

“I know people are frustrated about gentrification happening in the city, but the reality is, we live in a free market society,” he said. “The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city.”

He went on: “I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day,” he wrote.

Not surprisingly, his letter caused a flood of angry responses on social media where fellow San Franciscans condemned him. One said: “Thanks Justin Keller for reminding us how entitled privileged people feel about other human beings. Always refreshing.”

Health policy advocate Andrew Noble said: “Dear Justin Keller: so sorry you have to see poverty. Must be hard on you.” Another Twitter user, also called Justin Keller, was forced to protest that he was not the one responsible for the “myopic” open letter.

Keller later wrote an apology for use of the term “riff raff”, saying his choice of words had been “insensitive and counterproductive”.

Important Research Takes Off From Venus

imigrationA social work student from Liverpool John Moore’s University has embarked on a crucial study of the experiences and needs of migrant mothers, following a placement at Venus Women’s Centre.

The student, Frances Rogers, said: “I became interested in the diverse experiences of this service user group whilst on my placement at Venus Women’s Centre. I am interested in practical issues they face such as Visa and financial issues but also their experiences of culturally sensitive social work. As part of my MA Social Work degree at John Moore’s University I am conducting a research project into the experiences of women born overseas who have had and raised children in the UK.”

The study seeks to build understanding and practical knowledge around migratory experiences, migration legislation, and the effect this has on the lives of women as individuals and as mothers. The research will use narrative interviews to allow participants to tell their story in their own words. This will help to explore the experiences of migrant women in their role as mothers, and how they have experienced early intervention services and social services on Merseyside.

The study has received ethical approval from Liverpool John Moore’s Faculty Research Ethics Panel. Consequently, the information obtained as part of the study will be anonymised and the opinion of each individual participant will be unidentifiable in the final dissertation and any further publications.

Frances added: “I am currently seeking participants for my study and contacting organisations to enquire whether they have service users who fit the criteria and who would be interested in taking part. The research will be conducted through semi-structured interviews, which is intended to be engaging and participant-led.”

“I aim to gather findings on the diverse experiences ‘migrant’ mothers have of raising their children in the UK, engagement with services and ways in which their needs are met in culturally sensitive ways. I do not have access to interpreters so, unfortunately, I am only able to include in my study women who can access community support services without interpreters.”

If you would like to participate in the study, or if you require any further information, please contact Venus at 0151 474 4744 or emails to hello@venuscharity.org.

Reds Fan Takes A Homeless Blues Fan To The Everton Game

An act of kindness has touched the hearts of thousands of people around the world following a recent post on Facebook. The story went viral after a Liverpool fan explained how he took a homeless Everton fan to Goodison to watch the Blues.

The Reds fan, Ross Jenkins, wrote: “So this is a picture of me on the left and Darren (a homeless guy from Liverpool). Every day on my way to work I see Darren. He says hello, we have a chat, and I go get him a cup of coffee. He’s a massive Everton fan and I’m a massive Liverpool fan, but we always have good banter about the football.

Darren used to have a job, and a girlfriend, but he lost all that after his girlfriend died and he went into depression. Now he lives on the streets in Liverpool.

So I decided that instead of spending money on stupid things at Christmas (like cards and expensive food) I’d use the money to get Darren and I tickets to an EVERTON match. When I told him he burst out crying and gave me the best hug ever. We had a great time at the match and he was so grateful (he even offered to buy the coffee this time).

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this today is that Darren is no longer on the streets. He’s got a council flat and is working part time. Last week he had me round for dinner. I’m so proud of him.

I posted this story to show you that a little bit of kindness can go so far and help get someone on the right track again. I used to drink coffee with Darren on the streets, then I did it at Goodison Park, and now we drink it in his flat.”

It just goes to show that, in Liverpool, You’ll Never Walk Alone!

Lateral Thinking Beats The Bedroom Tax

Since the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ in 2013, demand for three-bedroom homes has dwindled, leaving many social housing landlords with empty properties on their hands as smaller families just can’t afford them.

But one Liverpool-based housing association has used some lateral thinking to get around the problem – they simply knocked through the walls to turn the three bedrooms into two!

Cobalt Housing saw demand for three-bedroom properties in Croxteth, Norris Green and Fazakerley fall dramatically, so they converted more than 80 homes from three- to two-beds.

And their innovative approach has put them in the running for a top national award at the finals of the UK Housing Awards 2016. The shortlisting also comes in recognition of their new handy-person service, which provides free support to tenants for everything from hanging pictures to decorating.

The service, ‘Cobalt Plus’, uses their in-house team rather than external contractors, saving £75,000 during 2014/15. This allowed Cobalt to support local work and training opportunities by taking on five apprentices.

Alan Rogers, Cobalt managing director, said: “We’re really proud to have made it to the finals of the awards, which recognise excellence in housing nationally. Welfare reform and the bedroom tax was the key driver for us to develop a new and innovative approach to making sure we are providing decent homes of the right size that people can afford to live in.”

“Customers are telling us they’re really happy with the converted properties and we are planning to make the same changes to over 100 more. Setting up Cobalt Plus has also allowed us to provide extra help to new tenants, save money that can be invested in homes and services, and create apprenticeship opportunities for local people.”

Cobalt is a finalist in the ‘Outstanding Approach to Repairs and Maintenance’ category at the UK Housing Awards, which recognise achievement in the social housing sector. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London in April.

New Start Win New Contract

We are pleased to announce that one of our consortium members, New Start, has helped secure a 4-year contract to deliver housing and support to a diverse range of single homeless client groups across Liverpool.  Working in partnership with a number of Liverpool-based housing support providers, New Start formed a consortium similar to SSHG.

The Liverpool YMCA is leading the successful consortium partners, which also includes Local Solutions, NACRO, North West Property Custodians, Nugent Care and Plus Dane.

New Start Managing Director, Neil Baynes, said: “We are pleased to announce that our consortium bid has been successful in securing this important contract. The breadth of knowledge and expertise across the consortium members is fantastic.”

“We are thrilled to be working alongside Liverpool YMCA, Local Solutions, NACRO, North West Property Custodians, Nugent Care and Plus Dane, to deliver high-quality supported housing across Liverpool. It’s early days yet, so I cant really say too much more because the whole process is not quite finished.”

For more information about New Start, please click on the Members domain at the top of the page.

Housing Is Harm Reduction

Housing is harm reductionWe are proud to support a new awareness-raising campaign that is taking off on social media. The ‘Housing Is Harm Reduction’ slogan refers to the fact that safe accommodation is a prerequisite to reducing the harms, to both individuals and communities, from drug misuse.

The Harm Reduction movement was born in Liverpool in 1985, when the first needle exchange programme in the UK was opened on Maryland Street in the city centre to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since then, the ethos of working with active drug users to help them prevent a range of harm from drugs has gone global following the first International Conference of the Reduction of Drug Related Harm was held here in 1990.

Alan Matthews, Chair of Trustees at Bosco House, was one of the original workers that set up the needle exchange and developed the idea of harm reduction interventions. He said: “In the early days, around 1985, HIV and AIDS was virtually unknown in the UK. Then we began to hear reports of drug injectors in Edinburgh becoming infected with HIV through sharing injection equipment.”

“That prompted us to take a leap into the dark, even though we knew it was the right thing to do, and set up the needle exchange. There was only four of us working at the Maryland Street office at the time, but we soon attracted over 300 people who regularly came to bring back used needles and syringes. So we knew it would work, and it has. A ten-year review of our HIV prevention work published in 1996 concluded that we had averted a major epidemic in the UK.”

“We also began to attract homeless people who were injecting heroin and it quickly became obvious to us that being homeless was a real obstacle to maintaining effective interventions. All the counseling and methadone you can give a person isn’t worth anything if they are sleeping rough or haven’t got a safe place to lay their head at night. That experience, gained all those years ago, and my work now at Bosco House, is why I’m backing Housing Is Harm Reduction.”