In March this year, sadly we had to make the difficult decision to close the Boaz Night Shelter early due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was a hard decision, but ultimately the right one to make.
Our work did not stop there, as we had 11 guests who had nowhere else to go. Fortunately, after a flurry of emails and calls, they were able to move into hotels as part of the government funded ‘Everyone In’ scheme overseen by Manchester City Council. We're grateful to the council and their homelessness team who worked hard to make sure some of the most vulnerable people in the city were safe.
In the following days and weeks, we were able to continue to support the men in various practical ways. Our amazing volunteers provided hot meals, food and hygiene parcels were delivered, and we kept checking in with regular phone calls and socially distant visits.
In time, some of the men were able to move into Boaz shared houses as rooms became available. Others were able to access asylum support accommodation too, having made progress with their asylum applications. Due to the complexities of the asylum system and individual cases, three of our former guests remain in temporary accommodation.
Prior to lockdown, we were able to offer guests the opportunity to receive free legal advice and signposting to other services needed. Our night shelter drop in session was accessed 119 times last winter. This meant that many men were able to receive relevant information to help them make decisions about their situation, and to hopefully enable them to move forward. If you would like to find out more about the accommodation and support we offered to our guests last winter, please click here to see our night shelter end of season report.
Normally at this time of year, Boaz volunteers and staff are preparing for the night shelter to reopen. Given the circumstances, unfortunately the night shelter will not be reopening in October. But as we move into Autumn and beyond we will still be doing all we can to support vulnerable people who have nowhere else to turn. We are currently working hard to try and increase the number of beds we have available and we hope to be able to take on an extra house during this season. We are also looking at how we can re-open our hosting scheme safely, although this is challenging with the ever-changing local lockdown guidance.
Through the 'A Bed Every Night' programme across Greater Manchester, anyone who is rough sleeping (or at imminent risk of rough sleeping) can be referred in to emergency accommodation and this year this includes people who have been told that they have no recourse to public funds. If you are concerned about someone who is sleeping on the streets, you can let StreetLink know and they will inform the appropriate local authority. Here in Manchester, people who need help with emergency accommodation are advised to visit one of the local drop in centres. You can find out more details about locations and opening times here on the Street Support website.