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Coffee4Craig working with MCC to help homeless over severe weather period.

Coffee4Craig joined forces with Manchester City Council and Riverside, who provided homeless services in the city to help get Manchester’s most vulnerable off the streets and into shelters over the recent period of severe weather.

Launched in 2013 by married couple, Fie and Risha Lancaster, the organisation used social media to urge local people to get involved by reporting rough sleepers, advising people on the streets to present at the referral location from 9pm each night. [Piccadilly Gardens over the severe weather, which ended Thursday 21st Jan am]

Coffee4Craig founders and a select few volunteers have been setting up camp at Piccadilly Gardens every night at 9pm since Thursday 14th Jan and trawling the streets, taking reports of rough sleepers and transporting the city’s most vulnerable into beds and emergency overnight shelters. They have been liaising with the council and Riverside to identify and allocate spaces in temporary accommodation schemes, in the existing night shelters, and in a sit up service opened just for the severe weather period at Central Methodist Hall. They were also able to provide bedding, hot food and a listening ear during the coldest period.

Coffee4Craig Co-founder, Risha Lancaster, comments: “Following the tragic death of my brother, Craig, who had spent many years living on the streets, we launched Coffee4Craig in a bid to support and assist some of our most vulnerable people who also find themselves surviving as a rough sleeper”.

Fie Lancaster adds “We saw a gap in the current provision, many people were unaware that during severe weather the council have an obligation to provide shelter. Whilst agencies take referrals during the daytime there was a need to get the message out more widely to people outside of normal working hours and provide them with practical support in getting them off the streets and into safe and warm buildings.

We were coming across individuals who could be in a bed but were missing out because they didn’t know about it, or it was outside the normal referral hours, or they did not feel able to sit in a more formal environment to provide their details. With this initiative [Protocol 74] we can refer rough sleepers into a safe place for the night after office hours, they can call in and be collected from out of city centre areas like parks and bus stops throughout the night. it also provides an opportunity for the general public to become more knowledgeable and empower themselves to have access to the service directly, instead of giving money to beggars people can tell them how to access shelter and support them off the street for the night. In the longer term this will help rough sleepers engage with services to provide the wrap around provision offered by existing charities and organisations in Manchester. This has proven to be an incredibly successful approach”.

• 64 unique referrals from rough sleepers into bed spaces or sit ups, 7 of which were women.

• 7 individuals reporting previously sleeping in tents around the City Centre.

• 227 Volunteering hours over 7 nights.

• 300+ miles travelled making sure individuals arrived safe.

Riverside’s Care and Support, Area Manager Eleanor Watts said “During the period of cold weather it has been a great collaboration between C4C, Riverside and the council. All the homeless services commissioned or not have come together in partnership to deliver this unique service. I am hoping this will continue throughout the year”

The Basics…

Coffee4Craig was born following the recent death of Risha Lancaster’s 37 year-old brother, Craig White in September 2013. After years spent battling mental health problems, Craig turned to drugs and alcohol and found himself living on the streets of Cardiff until his unexpected passing last year. Along with a team of fellow volunteers, Fie and Risha work tirelessly to support the homeless communities in both Manchester and Cardiff.

Since its inception, Coffee4Craig has quickly established itself as a significant support system to both existing homeless charities and services and to rough sleepers themselves. Thanks to the tireless voluntary efforts of Fie, Risha and their amazing team of volunteers.

Thrice weekly they hold ‘Street Kitchens’ for rough sleepers to attend for;
Food, advice, sign posting and also referrals into support. This service runs on Victoria Bridge St on Sundays 3.30-6pm, Monday 7-9pm and Tuesday 7-9pm. All volunteers must register via email complete a background check & induction event prior to supporting the kitchen.

The team has forged links with a Manchester women’s refuge to provide donated clothing and children’s items, as well as established ongoing relationships with local schools for Harvest collections and fundraising.
For further information on Coffee4Craig or to become a volunteer, please visit www.coffee4craig.co.uk, call 07543 590330, email info@coffee4craig.co.uk. Alternatively, follow on Twitter (@Coffe4Craig) Instagram coffee4craig and find on Facebook/Coffee4Craig.

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Editor at large, SalfordOnline.com