A recent report compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed the staggering truth about the scale of homeless deaths in the UK. In the last 18 months, over 796 homeless people have died, deaths that could have been prevented.
The staggering figures also reveal that over 70% of the deaths were related to men, with the average age being 49 and the youngest being 18. This equates to 11 people in the UK dying each week.
A homeless shelter in Liverpool is leading the way forward in tackling homelessness and helping to break the cycle and could be adopted by other homeless shelters across the UK.
The Cotton Street Project, which is in the process of applying for charitable status, is being hailed as groundbreaking in its unique approach to tackling homelessness and ultimately preventing the unnecessary loss of life.
The shelter is working closely with Interchange, Liverpool John Moores University, and the John Moores Foundation. Together they will produce an academic report and study into Cotton Street, evaluating its pathway programme, core values, methodology, case studies, and successes.
The shelter was launched on World Homeless Day last year by Liverpool-based entrepreneurs and hoteliers Lawrence and Katie Kenwright and former Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher as part of their philanthropic commitment to the city.
Cotton Street, which opened its doors in October of last year, has now helped seven former homeless people to turn their lives around since their first arrival at the shelter and who are now looking at a much more positive and brighter future.
The shelter, which can take up to 22 homeless people at a time, takes each person on a pathway assessment to ascertain their individual needs and requirements, rather than just providing a homeless shelter for the night.
Lawrence Kenwright chairman of Signature Living said: ‘The system in this country is broken. Money is ploughed into tackling the homeless issue, but the approach is not joined up in its thinking. Councils are investing millions of pounds into the system, but, for every 100 people who go through rehab, there is only a 5% success rate. Something is fundamentally wrong with a system that has a 95% failure.
‘Many of the issues surrounding homelessness are all interrelated – losing a job and falling through the cracks, money worries, mental health issues, family and relationship breakdowns, to the death of loved ones. All of these circumstances can be contributing factors and triggers to homelessness and with that comes drug and alcohol dependency as a way of numbing the pain and a coping mechanism.’
The Cotton Street project is run by shelter manager Simon Whitter, a highly experienced counsellor and advocate with a vast amount of expertise and first-hand knowledge of the complex issues that homeless and vulnerable people face. Simon, who was himself homeless, also suffered with alcohol dependency issues and abuse from a young age. A spell in prison was to be the turning point in Simon’s life before he decided to channel his own experiences and life lessons to help others on the path to recovery. His empathic approach is groundbreaking and has won over many of the homeless people who come to Cotton Street. Simon’s own personal journey is an inspirational one that gives hope to others but, most importantly, it comes from personal knowledge and experience.
The Cotton Street pathway process is likened to that of the umbilical cord between a mother and baby. The cord is the vital lifeline that is first formed between the team at Cotton Street and the homeless person. That cord and relationship is the lifeline to their existence and path to recovery.
Each homeless person is assessed as a unique individual first and foremost for dependency issues with drugs and alcohol and mental or physical health issues. Once the key triggers and dependency issues are identified, specialist teams from any number of relevant agencies that dedicate their skill set to homelessness are bought on board, assisting in the treatment and rehabilitation process and tackling each issue as a holistic process to start the road to recovery.
One significant factor in Cotton Streets success – that has been implemented by the shelter manager Simon Whitter – is that rehabilitation is not forced, but provided at a rate and pace dictated by the resident. It is this unique approach that is seeing a remarkable transformation and interaction between the shelter and its homeless guests.
Once the key dependency and health issues have been identified, the resident must then agree to start the Cotton Street pathway process. This is a commitment to accept help and support to tackle mental and physical health issues and alcohol and drug dependency. Those identified to have drug dependency issues must agree to start a transition programme from drugs to Subutex – an opioid that is used to treat addiction.
Once agreed and signed up to the process, they are given their own unique living pod accommodation at Cotton Street, which gives the resident their own personal space with a warm bed, table, and chair; drawers for personal effects; and a supply of toiletries and personal hygiene products and the use of shower facilities.
Each resident has the use of a communal recreational open space with sofas, fitness equipment, and classes that develop better sociable environments providing friendship and a community. The shelter also provides and runs workshops in carpentry and upholstery and each resident has the opportunity to learn new skills and apply for jobs within the Signature Living to lead to permanent employment. The addition of a cycle repair shop has also proved a huge success.
Critically, once a resident has their own accommodation by default, they also have their own address, which unlocks many of the key issues around benefits, universal credit, and gaining critical health and wealth support.