Top Five: Things I really wanted to go to this summer but didn’t quite make it to…

Has anyone else spent the last 4 days saying “How is it already September???” or is it just me? I swear it was the start of July just a few days ago and I don’t even know where August went. At the end of June, I wrote an article detailing my top five plans for the summer in Stoke so I thought I’d finish the season with a different list of stuff that I really wanted to get to but somehow failed to do so. If you managed to get to any of these events, let me know what you thought!

  1. Potters Soup
    I first heard about Birmingham ‘Soup’ so I was thrilled to find out the idea had reached The Potteries. The idea is so simple which I think is what makes it so successful: you pay £5 on the door for soup, salad, bread & a vote. Everyone listens to a couple of different pitches by different people & organisations and you vote for the project you think will benefit the local community the most. The winning pitch then takes home the cash raised from the evening to plough straight into their project. IT’S GENIUS! I can’t believe I couldn’t be there to see it in action but I will be ready and waiting with my fiver next time. I might even give pitching a go…
  2. The Enchanted Chandelier
    This magical performance by Transe Express was Appetite Stoke‘s summer headline event. The floating chandelier filled Central Forest Park and while I’m sure the photos don’t even do it justice, the lights and acrobatics looked completely mesmerising. There were food and drink stalls available too which definitely makes it my kind of evening. 
  3. Deliveroo Launch Party @ The Exchange
    Stoke’s independent food scene is getting better and better by the minute, and the launch of Deliveroo in the city now means you can eat KLAY pizza at home in your onesie or a Portofino risotto with none of the effort. I only wish I’d been at the launch considering they were giving out free goody bags and I LOVE goody bags.
  4. Entrepreneurs Store 2nd Birthday
    I have become a major fan  of the entrepreneurs store, and their upstairs gallery even more so. The Famous When Dead exhibition was the first I went to see and the whole building has such a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. They celebrated their second birthday in style by the looks of it with a bbq, DJs and some limited edition second birthday merchandise. 
  5. ‘We are all at home’- Musicians Against Homelessness
    Musicians Against Homelessness is a nationwide campaign aiming to raise money for the national homelessness charity, Crisis. The ‘We are all at home’ gig was hosted at Pilgrim’s Pit in Stoke town and featured a variety of local artists as along with a Bottlecraft-run bar. What a fantastic way to both encourage local musicians and build support for such a worthwhile cause, and there are still a couple more gigs coming up in Stoke-on-Trent!

For more information:

POTTERS SOUP: https://www.facebook.com/potterssoup/ 

APPETITE STOKE: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/ 

DELIVEROO HANLEY: https://deliveroo.co.uk/

ENTREPRENEURS & UPSTAIRS GALLERY:  https://ntrprnrs.com/

MUSICIANS AGAINST HOMELESSNESS STOKE: http://rebel-culture.co.uk/national/2016/8/31/musicians-against-homelessness

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SCATTERING KINDNESS: An evaluation of Stoke-on-Trent Churches Community night shelter’s pilot project

Stoke-on-Trent Churches Community Night Shelter is a temporary winter night shelter, set up in association with Housing Justice. Our pilot project ran for 9 weeks between mid-January and mid-March 2016, every Saturday night at Swan Bank Church, Burslem. Since the pilot finished, we have had various meetings with volunteers, guests and members of the steering group, aiming to evaluate how the project had gone. The resounding consensus from each of these groups is that it has been an overwhelming success, and I am inclined to agree. Below are just three reasons why I believe this to the be the case…

  1. Firstly, we made a difference in the lives of our guests.

Over the course of the 9 weeks, we were able to provide a safe & warm bed to 16 different individuals-13 men and 3 women-some of whom stayed with us on more than one evening. On each of these Saturdays, our guests received the warmest of welcomes; a hot meal; endless cups of tea; delicious homemade cake; hot showers; opportunities to pick up new clothes and bedding; friendly conversation; a safe space to rest; a hot breakfast; sandwiches to take away and support and advice regarding what to do next.

Obviously, the fact that we were able to serve 16 people in this way is incredible, but the best part is the number of people we were able to help find more stable accommodation. With the help of ARCH, we were able to help one of our guests access temporary accommodation for asylum seekers and we supported 2 other guests to find accommodation through their own contacts. One extremely kind volunteer had these 2 guests staying on different occasions with him at his home as they waited to move into their new accommodation. At present, we are supporting 1 guest while he waits to access the Edward Myers unit and another as he waits to enter a soon-to-open rehabilitation centre. On top of this, we were able to fund some extra nights in B&Bs during the freezing weather thanks to local church donations.

These stories alone showcase the success of STCCNS’s pilot project, and yet I have another 2 reasons to share with you…

2. Secondly, there were no incidents of aggression, violence or threat over the 9 weeks.

None! Zero! Nada! Considering some of our guests had substance abuse issues or mental health challenges or both and considering this can often increase the risk of threatening behaviour, this really is something to celebrate. I think this serves as a testament to the calm and friendly atmosphere that our wonderful volunteers created each week- lots of our guests told us how kind they found the volunteers and how they appreciated having so many of them around as it made them feel safer.

3. Thirdly, the pilot project really did operate as a ‘community-driven’ shelter. 

The amount of support we received since we first announced the idea has been overwhelming. Back in early January when we held our first training event, we waited at the YMCA to see if anyone would actually turn up. By the end of the pilot scheme, way over 30 people had committed their time and volunteered at the Saturday shifts. I know I’ve already mentioned this but our volunteers truly are fantastic. They welcomed and chatted with guests so warmly; made innumerable hot drinks; stayed up late; got up early; cleaned & tidied; gave lifts; put up camp beds…the list goes on and on. And they did all of these tasks with such enthusiasm. Without them, we certainly wouldn’t have achieved what we have achieved. Thank you.

Further evidence of the ‘community’ supporting the shelter is through the sheer number of donations that we received. Again, the list of clothes and bedding and food toiletries is endless, but so greatly appreciated as it meant we could gift each guest with a full bag of toiletries to take away as well as an opportunity to pick up new clothes, rucksacks, blankets and the like. Stoke-on-Trent must be one of the most generous cities going. Thank you.

Finally, the support we received from other agencies and organisations across the city and beyond has been unprecedented. Brighter Futures & The Rough Sleepers Team; the YMCA; Street Chaplains; The Jubilee Project; ARCH; The Macari Centre; The Walk Project; The City Council; Hanley Police; Swan Bank Church & Housing Justice… I’m sure that I’ve probably forgotten some there were that many, but the list just goes to show what can be achieved when we work together. Thank you.

I don’t think there is any more I can say to demonstrate how over the moon we are with how this pilot project has gone. However, we now need to look to the future. Homelessness and rough sleeping in Stoke-on-Trent has by no stretch of the imagination been solved or even reduced. The 18-bed Macari Centre is full most nights and the rough sleepers team continue to meet new people bedding down in the city centre. Over the next few months, we will be working to improve and expand the service that our pilot project provided and will be opening again in November 2016 to continue serving those that need us. Please continue to support us and keep in touch- it’s all hands on deck!

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STCCNS Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SOTWinterNightShelter/

Housing Justice:  http://www.housingjustice.org.uk/

SCATTERING KINDNESS: Plans for a Winter Night Shelter

When a group of us volunteering at Monday night foodbank distribution began noticing that the number of guests with NFA (No Fixed Abode) was becoming more and more frequent, alongside the number of street homeless guests, we decided something needed to be done. No one should have to make Hanley public toilets or a Middleport Canal Bridge their bed for a night or carry all their possessions around on their backs and setting up a winter night shelter seemed like one way of beginning to make a difference for those sleeping rough.

The statistics suggest that 2,744 rough sleepers can be found on any one night in England (Crisis UK) and 16 of these will be bedding down in the streets of Stoke-on-Trent each night. (JSNA) Of course, it’s quite likely that both these numbers are higher as those sleeping rough tend to hide themselves away for numerous reasons but they certainly give us a mandate to act on this issue. 16 people. That’s 1.45 football teams or One Direction + 3 tribute bands. Surely we can make room for 16 people in Stoke-on-Trent so that they can have the dignity of sleeping in a bed rather than the pavement?

Since that initial concern manifested itself, many meetings have been held and more planned with a variety of passionate folk from across different sectors and areas of the city. Discussion regarding the practicalities of setting up and running a night shelter is well under way. What venue do we use? How do we fund it? Who will staff it? The issues to think about are pretty hefty and there’s not always a clear answer but by no means has this disheartened us. If anything, it’s spurring us on to work harder and faster in order to realise our vision of no one having to sleep rough in our city. Asking these difficult questions has led us to linking up with Housing Justice, a Christian charity that works for action on homelessness and housing issues. They have a wealth of expertise in establishing and running Winter Night Shelters all across the UK and we’re very much looking forward to the help and guidance they can give us.


Housing Justice

Housing Justice


Now, the great thing about this vision is that anyone can get behind it. Everyone has something they can offer in order to help get this project off the ground. Are you a fabulous fundraiser? Why not raise some money to help us buy bedding and toiletries? Enjoy cooking? You could volunteer to make an evening meal for our guests at one of the shelter venues. Perhaps you’re a people person with a heart for reaching out to those that most people ignore…if that’s the case, there’s definitely a role for you to play in Stoke’s Winter Night Shelter.

Colder temperatures appear to have set in over the past few days and winter is definitely on its way. We’re going to need all hands on deck, everything that this generous community can offer, if we’re going to be ready to welcome Stoke’s rough sleepers into a warmer, safer and more supportive environment. If you share this vision; if you want to find out more about our progress or if you want to get involved please get in touch! All emails to: stokewinternightshelter@gmail.com would be greatly received!


CRISIS UKhttp://www.crisis.org.uk/

JSNA report: http://webapps.stoke.gov.uk/JSNA/download.aspx?documentID=184

Housing Justicehttp://www.housingjustice.org.uk/