Homelessness and the Embassy Bus

Manchester has one of the highest rough sleeper rates in the country and more homeless people died in Manchester than in any other local authority area in England and Wales in 2018.

The relative poverty of an area is closely linked to a number of rough sleeper deaths. Despite us living in 21st Century Britain and being the 5th richest country in the world, currently in Manchester there are 5564 people who are homeless. 1804 in Manchester are living in temporary accommodation or on the streets, and 1088 in Salford. This doesn’t include the ‘hidden homeless’ who are staying with friends or family or sofa surfing.

Some of the reasons for people finding themselves homeless are lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, addictions, mental ill-health, relationship breakdown, or when people leave care, prison or the army. There are so many homeless charities and outreach projects working in Manchester – the Booth centre, Barnabus, Cornerstone, Mustard tree, and coffee4craig. Many of the referrals to the Embassy bus come from these charities.

Inspired by the talk at KMC’s Cafe Church last September from Sid Williams, founder of the ‘Embassy homeless bus’, Sal Thompson and I are now volunteers on the Embassy bus.

Launched on the 8th Jan 2019, Embassy started with just 1 guest. It uses a re-purposed tour bus to provide emergency shelter and support to vulnerable adults. It can sleep 12 at a time. The accommodation is free of charge to the guests and provides a safe space, food and secure storage. Over 100 men aged 18-71 have passed through the bus in last year – 4000 comfortable nights on the bus that would otherwise have been spent on the street.

Some men came short term because had something else lined up or while waiting for a place in rehab. Others have stayed a few months before leaving the bus to move into permanent accommodation. 35 men in total have been assisted to next step accommodation and as far as they known no one returned to the street despite the statistics that 50% of all men housed from rough sleeping choose to return to the street.

The bus parks up outside Manchester City Mission’s Narrowgate Shelter and the Shelter provides Embassy with training, electricity, showers and food. Embassy employs 6 members of staff and is supported by 60 volunteers and 8 corporate sponsors are willing to employ guests. Many churches and corporate sponsors and 95 individuals support Embassy financially. Thirteen men chose to follow Jesus, and for many more the optional times of prayer and encouragement have made a huge difference to the way they value themselves.

I have found many of the men just value having someone to chat to and having someone show them that they are cared about. It feels such a privilege to be a very small part of the journey of these men to hopefully what will be a better time in their lives after the massive low of finding themselves homeless. Without sleep the homeless are often unable to keep track of appointments, keep down a job, and make it to meetings therefore missing vital steps in the rehousing process. The emergency beds provided on the Embassy bus help men escape the streets and get the support they need with this.

Embassy realised that short-term emergency accommodation wasn’t enough so they now employ a full-time resettlement worker. Guests without employment are offered to work at one of their corporate partners businesses so they can save up for their first months rent and a deposit and be supported through the process into private rental accommodation with the support of the resettlement worker who also visits the housed guests regularly to ensure they are settled in their new home.

Ultimately Embassy wants its guests to recover from the street, discover they are loved by people and by God, and that they have a life full of purpose, get into work and private accommodation and remain part of the community going forward so they continue to feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

How to get involved:
Prayer Volunteer on the bus (either evening or night)
Support financially monthly via direct debit
Purchase a ‘night off the street voucher’ for £28 via the website
Assist with regular visits after re-housing to ensure guests are settled and not isolated after leaving the bus.

For more information please have a chat with Sal or Sara or visit the Embassy website: embassybus.org. I am running the Manchester Marathon, which was due to take place in April but has recently been postponed until later in the year, to raise money for Embassy. However, I’m still running 26.2 miles from home on 5th April to honour sponsorships. I’ve now set myself a target of £1500 that I am hoping to smash. If you would like to sponsor me that would be really amazing. My giving site is: give.net/sarawaters

Thanks so much, Sara.

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