Excel Open New Services For Veterans


In a timely nod to the sacrifices made by our armed forces on Remembrance Day, Excel Housing Solutions have opened new facilities to provide supported accommodation for some of Liverpool’s ex-services personnel.

Jenny Barnes, from Excel, said: “We have recently opened two services for veterans with support needs. All the properties are shared and fully furnished to a high standard.”

There is a real, and growing, need for this kind of support. Figures released by the MoD reveal 5,076 soldiers were found to have “mental health disorders” in 2013 – 28 per cent higher than in 2011. Early statistics from the first half of 2014 suggest the number is set to rise again.

The charity Combat Stress, which supports veterans with mental health issues said: “This increase is mainly accounted for by a marked rise in those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help.”

Some 2,264 personnel have requested treatment, with three-quarters said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an average of six veterans per day over the last 12 months. Many are also affected by depression and abuse of alcohol and drugs, symptoms associated with the condition.

Jenny also commented: “We have established working partnerships with Liverpool Veterans HQ, who do a fabulous job in supporting all veterans in the community.”

For more information, go to Excel’s website www.excelhousingsolutions.com

You can also support our veterans and their families by donating tinned goods and toys to their ‘Christmas Food & Toy Appeal’. For more information go to www.liverpoolveterans.co.uk

A Not So Merry Xmas On The Cards For The UK’s Homeless Families

More than 100,000 children will wake up homeless on Christmas morning, according to a new report. The number of children being forced to live in temporary housing is at the highest level since 2008, with the numbers rocketing by 15,000 in the past year.

The report, from the housing charity Shelter, warns that the equivalent of four children in every UK school are living in temporary accommodation – the highest level since the financial crash in 2008. The number of families living in B&Bs has more than trebled, to about 2,700, with a rise of 25% in the past year alone.

Shelter’s Alison Mohammed said, “The sad fact is almost every day we hear from families who’ve fallen on hard times and found themselves living in a single, cramped room of a B&B or hostel, unable to give their children the environment they need to grow and thrive in.

“Worrying about your child’s safety, eating dinners on the floor and sharing beds is no way for a family to live. But, sadly, we know we’re going to have even more families facing Christmas without a place to call home.”

The report also looked at 20 families living in single rooms and found children suffering from extreme anxiety. Many children and parents had to share a bed, most also said their room was in a state of disrepair, and more than half saying it was not secure. Many also had to eat meals on the floor or on their bed.

The dismal statistics come amid a housing crisis with families priced out by sky-high rents.

Amsterdam street drinkers paid in beer to collect litter

Free beer is the order of the day at the Rainbow Group in Amsterdam, but you have to clear the streets of rubbish to qualify.

Around 20 street-drinkers have joined the project. They start at 09.00, have regular breaks for beer, cigarettes and a hot lunch – all provided free of charge – and finish up by 15.00.

Project co-ordinator Janet van de Noord said: “It’s quite difficult to get these people off the alcohol completely. We have tried everything else. Now this is the only thing that works. We might not make them better, but we are giving them a better quality of life and it’s better for the neighbourhood, they’re giving something back to society.”

The Rainbow Group, a charity that is part-funded by the Dutch government, is reluctant to say how many of the 6,000 cans of beer in stock are paid for by the government in case it generates bad publicity that might affect funding.

But Ms van de Noord argues it is a cost-effective way to tackle the impact of street-drinking. “If people are being arrested, it also costs society a lot of money. So this can only be a good thing. I don’t see why other countries wouldn’t want to do it.”

Since the street-cleaning programme started 12 months ago, local police have received fewer reports of stabbings and muggings in the park and local residents say they are happy with the government supporting this approach. Instead of being ostracised by society, the street-drinkers’ needs appear to have been incorporated into the Dutch healthcare system.

At the Jellinek Centre, one of Amsterdam’s drug treatment services, Floor van Bakkum says the project is a good way to deal with “a very problematic group – it’s kind of harm reduction”. She likened it to giving carefully monitored methadone or heroin doses to chronic heroin addicts.

“It might help them to do something else with their life. You always have to monitor such a project, so it shouldn’t attract new alcoholics – it’s not an open invitation to drink in Oosterpark.” She said the scheme is targeting street-drinkers, and would be inappropriate for alcoholics who still live at home and have a job.

The founders of the project approach the issue using the only device that is guaranteed to connect with the patients. “I come for the beer. If there was no beer then why would I come?” says Rene, one of the service users.

Regardless of their motivations, Rene and his friends are making a positive difference in a community where they were once despised. “It’s true,” Rene concedes, acknowledging the irony. “They used to treat us like garbage – and now we are picking up their garbage, we are not the garbage anymore.”

Venus Makers Keep On Making

Venus are renowned for the diverse range of activities and sessions that happen at Our Place, that anyone in the community can get involved with. One such activity is our Makers Project.

The Makers Project started off with a funded tutor a year ago, with the aim of supporting people to participate and develop cottage-industry skills like various crafts, sewing, crocheting, knitting, card making, etc. The hope was that this could develop into a Community Interest Company (CIC), a not-for-profit, self-sufficient organisation that helps people develop skills. Any income generated from the endeavor is then ploughed back into the business.

The tutor has now ended her work with the group, but it has been so successful the participants now meet weekly of their own accord and organised stalls at local craft fairs to sell their wares. The group is really welcoming and supportive, and the Centre is a hive of activity when they are around!

As well as making items to sell, the group is also developing skills in making and repairing clothing, which is really helpful to everyone concerned. Some of the group now regularly bring the odd item of clothing for hemming or adjusting in some way.

The group is open to anyone who is interested in taking part, so call Venus on 0151 474 4744 or drop in at The Venus Centre, 215 Linacre Lane, Bootle, L20 6AD, for more information.

A Lifesaver Comes To Sefton

The lifesaving drug Naloxone could soon be more readily available to residents of supported housing services in Sefton. A recent change in the law means that Naloxone, an antidote to heroin overdose, could soon be in every hostel in the Borough.

Under previous legislation, only a hostel’s doctor or residents’ GPs could prescribe Naloxone to individuals at risk, whilst those in treatment could be prescribed it from their drug treatment service. But, from the 1st October this year, Naloxone will more readily available for those that need it.

This relaxation of restrictions on the availability of Naloxone could help save lives in Sefton. The drug has no abuse potential, is harmless to someone who doesn’t use opiates, doesn’t give a ‘high’ and is not addictive, but can reverse a heroin overdose.

The change in the law will mean workers at drug treatment services are now able to supply the drug, without a prescription, to anyone needing it to reverse a heroin overdose and save lives. This means that Naloxone could be prescribed to a named person in a hostel.

Naloxone can now be supplied to:

  • Someone who is using or has previously used opiates (illicit or prescribed) and is at potential risk of overdose.
  • A carer, family member or friend who is liable to be on-hand in case of overdose.
  • A named individual in a hostel, which could be a manager or other member of staff.

In short, a drug treatment service could supply Naloxone to an individual in a hostel, such as the manager. The hostel manager could then arrange for the Naloxone to be available for staff or resident use in case of an overdose on the premises.

Overdose deaths in England rose by a third (32%) in 2013, according to the Office of National Statistics. However, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland already have a national take home naloxone programmes that have contributed to deaths remaining static in Wales and actually falling in Scotland, reported the Naloxone Action Group (NAG).

Sefton Supported Housing Group is now planning to have Naloxone readily available to all residents who may be at risk of overdose.

Homeless street-drinkers brew their own beer

An innovative project in Vancouver, Canada, has come up with a novel way to help street drinkers refrain from drinking harmful products like mouthwash and hand sanitiser – they teach clients how to brew their own beer and wine.

Launched last year, the alcohol cooperative scheme supplies members with five liters of home-brewed beer or wine each month. To qualify, members must pay a $10 monthly fee, mix and bottle the batches themselves, and be members of the centre’s ‘Drinker’s Lounge’, a support group for about 90 street drinkers.

Mark Townsend, director of the Drug Users Resource Centre, a publicly funded agency that runs the co-op, says the idea is to keep Vancouver’s homeless alcoholics from turning to “rubbish” sources of alcohol like hand sanitiser or mouthwash. “We do know that it’s better that people don’t drink rubbing alcohol,” he said.

Kevin, a new member of the group, said: “To get five bottles for $10, that attracted me to it.” He also praised its “health aspect,” arguing that drinking homemade beer is better than “drinking rub [rubbing alcohol] or some bottle I found in a bin somewhere.”

Kevin and two other members of the cooperative, Tim and Rob, help to bottle up jugs of fermented beer, one containing Dutch lager, the other honey lager. Previous sessions have also brewed wine, and a batch of chardonnay is expected to be ready to distribute soon.

“It’s more economically viable than buying it at a liquor store. You get more bang for your buck,” said Rob, a local man who has been with the project since it started last summer. Although Rob never drank mouthwash or other industrial alcohols, he did say the project has stopped him from stealing. The five litres, he says, lasts him for about a week.

New Start Take Gold!

New Start has been awarded the Investors in People Gold Standard award, joining the top 7% of accredited organisations across the UK who believe in realising the potential of their people.

Investors in People is the UK’s leading accreditation for business improvement through people management, and provides a wealth of resources for businesses to innovate, improve and grow, with a focus on good people making great business.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate New Start on being awarded the Gold Standard. Such a high level of accreditation is the sign of great people-management practice, and demonstrates a commitment to staff development and shows an organisation committed to being the very best it can be. New Start should be extremely proud of their achievement.”

Good people make a great business

Steve Burrows, Managing Director of Investors in People North of England said: “This is a fantastic achievement for New Start and I would like to congratulate the team on their success. We believe that good people make a great business and as a proven organisational development framework, Investors in People is designed to help organisations and their people to realise potential, enhance performance and meet goals. With their Gold accreditation, New Start is certainly working to realise their people potential.”

Commenting on the award, Neil Baynes, Managing Director of New Start said:

“We are delighted to have been recognised for the hard work and inclusivity within our organisation.  New Start is a socially focussed organisation, and we are committed to ensuring the continued development of staff and services in the local community. Investors in People Gold Status ensure that we continue to achieve the high standards we work towards.


Venus Gives Volunteers The Training They Need

Venus is delighted to announce the start of their 6-week volunteer training course. Clare, who ran the first week’s training, gave us the low down on what happened on the first week and how you can get involved if you’re interested.

“This week myself and Kati delivered the first session of the Volunteer Training. The training is for those that would like to volunteer at Venus or the Care Leavers Centre. The course involves 6 weeks of training that provides you with the basic skills and knowledge you may need when volunteering at Venus.

It also gives you an insight into the work we do from supporting individuals and families in their homes, attending appointments with clients, to being a listening ear within the drop in sessions.”

Many of the trainee volunteers on the course at the moment have had support from Venus and are looking to give something back.  Tracey said “Venus did so much for me when I was going through a difficult time and now I would like to be able to help someone who maybe in need”.

Some of the opportunities available once participants have completed the 6-week training are listed below:

  • Admin/Reception support – typing up information, copying, faxing, laminating, and answering the phone, etc.
  • Driving – taking clients to appointments, bringing them to the centre, and driving the minibus on days out, etc.
  • Drop in support – making tea and coffee, providing a listening ear, helping people make a phone call, etc.
  • Intensive cleaning support – helping de-clutter, teaching cleaning skills, helping set up routines, etc.
  • Children and Young Persons Groups – helping with activities, being a listening ear, offering advice, etc.
  • Outreach Support – in clients’ homes, attending meetings and appointments, working more intensely.

So, if you would like to give it a try please contact the centre for an application form on 0151 474 4744.

Bosco House AGM told: The Real Work Starts Now!

The 2015 Annual General Meeting of The Bosco Society was held on Friday the 17th of July in the Futures Suite at Bosco House. Over 30 people attended, including: staff and residents, committee members and representatives from other organisations.

The Chairman, Alan Matthews, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and introducing Danny and ‘Recovery Inc.’ from Bosco’s music project, who played two songs to rapturous applause.

Bosco House manager, Sheila Howard, gave her report on the last twelve months and highlighted the changes that had taken place. Most importantly, she noted, was the change in funding from Sefton Council.

Sheila said, “As part of a consortium that includes three other housing providers (Venus, Excel and New Start) we were successful in securing funding for the next five years.” This includes doubling capacity by taking over the young persons’ hostel, The Sead Project, and running a sit-up service for rough sleepers at both locations.

Most poignantly, two residents told their stories and highlighted how grateful they were for Bosco’s support. They both noted how things had changed for the better since Bosco had taken over the Sead project; it had only been a few weeks, but everyone could see things changing and there was a lot of optimism for the future.

The real work starts now 

Alan Matthews presented the Trustee’s Report by recalling how he had first visited Bosco House 30 years ago, in 1985, to interview residents as part of an ethnographic study of heroin use. He noted how the House had been transformed under the stewardship of the manager, Sheila Howard. He also described how, as part of the consortium, Bosco had won a 5-year contract to provide supported housing from Sefton Council.

Whilst this was to be welcomed, he cautioned that the real work was about to begin and, under future austerity measures, the job was going to get a lot more difficult. He thanked all the staff and volunteers for their efforts and hard work that makes Bosco such an amazing place.