Last year Stoke-on-Trent had the highest rate of homelessness in North Staffordshire. On any given night in 2022, there were at least 70 people living in a hostel, temporary accommodation, or on the streets, according to stats released at the start of the year.
For the Destination:Home Gateway team, based at our Concrete head office in Stoke, this is something that they see every day.
They’re the first point of contact for new customers of the Destination:Home service, a city-wide partnership, commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, that houses people without a home.
Consisting of us, North Staffs Mind, Adullam Homes, Changes: Health and Wellbeing and WALK Ministries, the service delivers 24/7 support to local people in housing crisis across the city.
In the last two months, the Gateway team has secured safe accommodation for 59 local people, both within the Destination:Home partnership and with external housing providers.
Gateway Coordinator Marcus has been part of the team since November 2020. He said there is currently a ‘real demand’ for housing, with the team receiving around 10 to 12 referrals a day on average. He added that there has been a ‘huge increase’ in referrals since Christmas.
“There’s lots of reasons for homelessness,” he explained.
“Relationship breakdowns are a huge reason, which is something a lot of people don’t realise. That can be any relationship, not just romantic ones.
“Sometimes we hear from the same people repeatedly. Homelessness can often come with multiple disadvantages, needs and vulnerabilities. It may be that their accommodation didn’t work out and that we need to find a different, more creative approach, that fits that individual.”
Working within the homelessness sector can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding too. By housing people without a home, the team are changing lives every single day.
“The best part for me is when people are so grateful that we’re able to offer them a home,” said Gateway Coordinator Chloe.
“We recently offered a bedsit to a lady who had been sleeping in her car for a month. She broke down crying when she arrived because it had just completely changed her life. We’re not in this job for the thanks, we don’t do it for that. We do it because we care and we want to help people. However when people get emotional and you can tell they’re really grateful, it’s lovely.
“It’s never a choice, people can fall on hard times. I think we all need to be a bit kinder to people who have been through difficult situations.”
Operations Manager Rachael currently oversees the Gateway. She said the best thing about the service is being able to ‘give customers a choice.’
She added: “The Destination:Home partnership model works really well because we can provide individuals with a variety of support and housing specialisms from each partner.
“There’s also a range of opportunities to move on and progress when the customer is ready. There’s support to learn tenancy skills and access other services, such as mental health or addiction support. There’s also the chance to work with staff and peer mentors who have lived experience of what they are going through.
“On top of this, we also work as a multi-agency team with the partnership, other external stakeholders and the city council. This means that we can give customers with more complex needs, perhaps those who are more entrenched in the homelessness cycle, opportunities to access accommodation and overcome some of the barriers to support that they might face.”
If you’re at risk of losing your home, or worried about someone else, get in touch with the Gateway team by calling 0330 094 5558.