A Helping hand at Christmas
Alaine Bradbury, Estates Manager, PAD4U Letting Agents Manchester writes:
As you are no doubt aware PAD4U encourages the team to get involved with charitable events whenever possible. At Christmas time we considered having a food collection for the homeless but we felt we’d like to take it one step further and help the homeless in Manchester
Luke and I, have been volunteering over the Christmas period at 'Lifeshare' in Manchester. Lifeshare is a voluntary organisation established to help meet the needs of the homeless and the disadvantaged in Manchester, Salford and the surrounding areas. They are one of the first points of contact for people on the streets, they offer practical assistance, support and information from the shelter. They are different from a soup kitchen as they not only serve hot and cold meals they offer continued assistance to enable people to secure suitable accommodation, support to maintain their tenancies and help the homeless access initiatives to carry their lives forward.
My Experience of volunteering
I read an article in the Manchester Evening News during November about a homeless man who was asleep in a commercial refuse bin when it was processed, sadly he lost his life. This inspired me to find out more about the homeless cycle and try and learn how people end up sleeping on the streets. I have a real interest in people and property and like looking into all aspects of housing. I often have a hand in helping landlords evict tenants however we always consider that to be a last resort and often go to great lengths to help them stay in their homes. Cara is especially qualified in helping set up and maintain housing benefit claims. We often feel we could assist more with a more understanding Housing Benefit service.
The volunteering started off with a training course that gives you an insight into the types of people that live on the streets and the reasons why they are homeless. Over 80% are male and some of the reasons they become homeless are: drug and alcohol abuse, falling out with family, financial reasons, mental illness, being in the care system when they were younger, choice and bereavement. They also briefed us on what to expect from the shift we were working.
Lifeshare not only offered hot and cold food thought the days over Christmas, it is open throughout the year and gives people the opportunity to chat to people and socialize, playing ping pong, board games or watching TV, we were encouraged to eat together at mealtimes and join in the games, the social aspect of the project was very strong at Lifeshare. They also had other services where local people gave up there time to provide things such as chiropodist, doctor, hairdresser, nurse and clothes donation team.
I mainly worked on the clothes donation team and helped choose clothes for the people that needed them. I was surprised at the amount of young men on the streets and the amount of requests I got for label’s such as Nike, Ted Baker, DKNY ect. I found it very hard to tell apart the clients from the volunteers!
On reflection of my volunteering experience, I had a image in my mind of what a homeless person looked like and I met very few that fit that image, there were young men and women of my age in various different situations. I was lucky to meet and chat to many of them, lots of people had at some point in time been just like me, working full time in a job they loved!
I met a professor that worked at a university and a chef from a well known hotel chain to mention but a few and realised that for some it was circumstances and luck that had changed their lives.