Hanley week of action
By Steve Willis, Service Coordinator, VOICES
During December PC James Howard of Hanley Police led plans to set up a week of action to help the homeless at Christmas. The aim was to provide a location for people experiencing homelessness to access a warm safe space where they could have a hot drink, food and engage with support services. A mobile Police station was set up on a carpark at the top of Lichfield street, just opposite Hanley Bus station.
Representatives of VOICES, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Housing Options, Brighter Futures Rough sleeper team and the Macari Centre frequented the location through the week alongside PC Howard.
There were a lot of donations made for the van by the Brighter Futures Rough Sleeper’s Team, Hanley Bus Station, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Stoke Community Drug and Alcohol Service, The Royal Voluntary Service, The Police, Number Eleven and the Macari Centre. These donations included food, clothes, handwarmers, foil blankets and shoe boxes gift wrapped containing useful items.
Over 25 people attended through the week (we lost track of the exact number due to times when the van was very busy and literally overflowing). Throughout the week 8 people were accommodated and more were accommodated soon after as a direct result of the week’s engagement. All who engaged with the desire for support were given options and had referrals made into services which could help them. There were some who simply wanted to warm up and have a hot drink and they were welcomed onto the van and encouraged to stay as long as they wanted, engaging in conversation with their peers and the services present. One individual who attended fondly shared his stories from their time working on a dairy farm, unfortunately it was a decrease in work at the farm which led to their homelessness, but they looked forward to being in a situation where they could work again in a similar role (it was a hard job but very rewarding).
There were people who repeatedly came back over the week including those who may not usually have positive involvement with the Police or who have trouble engaging with services through traditional methods such as set appointments or via phone. One of the people housed on the Tuesday had a bed ready for a week prior but had not been located to receive notification of this until they presented at the van.
The week was a resounding success, it led to accommodation or at least different options of accommodation for all that attended and served to increase engagement between services, the Police and the people who attended. It demonstrated once again that people will engage when given the right format to fit their needs, where there is no set appointment times for people who are not watching the clock and keeping a diary, but are in most cases struggling just to get by day to day. It showed services working together side by side for the good of the people they are there to support and helped to show the kind and caring nature of our local Police.
Special mention needs to be given to PC James Howard for his hard work in organising the details for the week, for organising the venue, getting the mobile Police station to be driven to location every day and getting the various services and donations on board. His passion for showing the supportive nature and will of Hanley Police was ever present and ensured that the week was the success that it was.