Birmingham’s first permanent night shelter for rough sleepers has opened its doors just as the city braces itself for the seasonal rise in homelessness.
With nights getting darker and temperatures dropping the demand for shelter is increasing and now the new Tabor House facility in Alcester Street, Digbeth is up and running.
As well as providing basics such as a warm bed and meal the centre, which has 100 volunteers on the staff, offers help with numeracy and literacy, health checks and advice, addiction support and help to find work.
An official count of rough sleepers last November found 55 on the streets of Birmingham, a rise of 53 per cent on the previous year. But charities fear the true number is about 200. Three rough sleepers have also died in Birmingham in the last year.
The Tabor Centre is the first project from iShelter, an umbrella organisation made up of various charities, specialist homeless agencies, churches and businesses. It is opening with six beds, rising to 15 after six months. It will be open all year.
Christy Acton, deputy community projects manager at Father Hudson’s Care, said: “During the first six months we want to learn from how we’re doing things to ensure we’re offering the best support we can.
“We are providing a safe and positive environment and accommodation. They have a bed, evening meal, showers and laundry.
“There is also support one-to-one support from a volunteer mentor.”
He said that some guests will stay for three nights, and others who demonstrate a willingness to work with the volunteer mentors will be given 28 days to get on their feet and find somewhere more permanent to live. No one will be thrown out back onto the streets.
Tabor House is based in the Birmingham Irish Association building and was fitted out by Friel Construction at no cost to the charity. The development has been supported by generous donations and grants from charitable trusts. It costs about £100,000 to run.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who set up a rough sleeping task force in May, welcomed the new centre. “It is a place of security and safety for those who might not have a place to go at night. The wonderful thing about it as that residents will have support to rebuild so that they can go into permanent accommodation.”
Mr Street has also bid for Birmingham and the West Midlands to pilot a scheme, adopted from Finland, called Housing First under which homeless people can be handed accommodation before tackling their drug, alcohol or mental health problems.
Currently the Government adopts a ‘treatment first’ approach, where homeless people must show they are undergoing treatment for an addiction before they can be given permanent accommodation leaving many desperate and vulnerable people on the streets.
Tabor House is a partnership between the Birmingham Rough Sleepers Team, Midland Heart, Father Hudson’s Care, Housing Justice, Irish in Birmingham, St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, corporate philanthropists, and other local homelessness specialists. Together they have formed iShelter—a new homelessness organisation that aims to help homeless people turn their lives around.