Cause in Focus | Lifeshare - Play Fund Win

Cause in Focus | Lifeshare

November 18, 2021

Cause in Focus | Lifeshare

We speak to Judith Vickers, Operations Manager at Lifeshare, a homeless charity based in Manchester.

Here at Play Fund Win, we are committed to working with charities and causes who work towards creating a better society and supporting those who need support most.

Lifeshare is a homelessness charity based in Manchester. Established in the 1980s to help meet the needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford, they work with people on the streets, offering practical assistance, support and information. Beyond this, their continued assistance enables people to secure suitable accommodation, support them in maintaining their tenancies, and help them to access initiatives that carry their lives forward.

We spoke to the charity’s Operations Manager Judith Vickers to find out more about the charity’s work, the challenges they face, and how fundraising through digital fundraising draws could help to support the services which they offer in and around the city.

 

When was the charity established and why was it set up initially?

“The first street outreach went out in 1984… that was because of the increase in rough sleepers in Manchester at that time. [There was an] increase of people on the streets and an increase in substance misuse. So, we started doing street outreach out in [Manchester’s] Chinatown around Piccadilly Gardens. It was a breakfast outreach, taking bacon butties out. That was 1984 and charitable status came for us in 1989.

Then we realised we needed to be doing more than just feeding people on the streets. That’s when our weekend breakfast project went indoors into the Charter Street mission. We focus on young people Monday to Friday, and that’s our main cohort. We work with young people that are not in education or employment, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Our goals for those [young people] are education or employment and long-term, sustainable accommodation. At the weekends we’re an open house service where anybody over 18 can access our weekend food provision.”

 

What is your role at Lifeshare and how long have you been with the charity?

“My journey with Lifeshare probably started around about 2000. I was working for Lifeline as an under 19s Substance Misuse Worker, social work trained, specialising in child sexual exploitation and sex work. Lifeshare at that time had identified a very small pocket of young men that were selling sex in the city, and it wasn’t about sexuality – it was about survival sex, and they ran a project called MSWOP, which is a male sex workers outreach project. I was seconded by Manchester DAS to come and work with Lifeshare. I think it was about 2005 when I actually came into employment with Lifeshare as a coordinator on the MSWOP project, progressing up to Team Leader of the project.

We approached Comic Relief in 2010 and told them we were going to have to have go more generic [with our services] – that we needed to be working with every young person, and around any form of exploitation. From this our CARDS project was born. I came up with the acronym CARDS, which is Crisis Assessment, Referral Diversity Service and CARDS has gone from strength to strength. We can work with any form of exploitation and any young person.”

 

What do you find are the biggest challenges to you as a charity?

“The biggest challenge for us really is funding. Being able to have enough time and hours in the day to look for funding is a big problem too. The pandemic was a big scary one, because you’d apply to grant boards that you’d normally apply for, but the trustees weren’t meeting because of pandemic so grant funding was very much restricted then.

We were very blessed because we had Abby, our Events and Marketing Manager and Abby could quickly turn around and look at corporate support and doing campaigns to the general public to you know, keep us going. So funding is always a bit of a challenge.”

 

What sort of challenges did the charity’s users face during the pandemic?

“Well, Manchester is great. We’ve got the ‘a bed for every night’ facility, where you can get somebody off the streets that night, but there’s a shortage of move on accommodation. We’ve not had much social housing built in Manchester for quite a while.

In addition to this, some of our clients have very high support needs – so they might have mental health and substance abuse and offending histories. Getting references for them is a big challenge. Another issue we identified, even though I’m a bit of a digital dinosaur, is that everything was starting to come online; being able to bid for your housing, GP registration, things like that. It was around 2016 that we realised there was going to be this digital need for our users. I was very lucky to secure some funding from an organisation in London called Kilburn & Stone, and we got ourselves a digital inclusion worker. We’ve also now formed the MDC powered by Lifeshare, which is Manchester’s Digital Collective – bringing organisations together to share digital resources, asking the general public too. We asked them if they’ve got old smartphones that were sat in a drawer or old laptops, to donate those so that we can clean them up and redistribute them out to people in need.

If you’re homeless you need to access the internet too, so we’ve produced a map of all the free data hotspots in the city, so people can go and sit on a bench and click on and still then feel included. There’s so many new challenges that are common and changing for people, but digital exclusion is going to be a big one, because it’s a digital high street now, isn’t it?

Lifeshare adapts itself to the needs of the city. Manchester is one of the richest cities but it’s got such a high level of deprivation.”

 

If you had an additional, steady revenue stream come on board, how would that allow you to confidently build on the services that you offer?

“It would give me more security with my staff. Some of them are only on 12-month contracts – so from the minute I’ve got this 12 months funding, I have to be looking for the next 12 months’ funding. You’re constantly then having to look for the funds for [the team’s salaries]. It would ease my workload and sleepless nights! I realised this year, I’ve managed to get everybody else’s funding, and I’ve not got my own funding in yet! It’s a constant worry, really.”

 

In terms of what we’re currently doing to raise funds, do you have fundraising initiatives that you carry out and what sort of things do you do?

“We have our five-a-side corporate football tournament which {we’ve} had to cancel twice this year. Then we’ve got the hoodie campaign coming up this Christmas. We have had some designers like Mikesian and various other designers from Manchester design hoodies, t-shirts and posters. This year, we’re going with a hoodie campaign. We’ve got four designers, and it will basically be asking the public to buy yourself a hoodie but donate a hoodie as well. You can get yourself a really cool hoodie, knowing that a hoodie will also go to somebody in need. Last year we did a virtual auction with Maxine Peake and we did the virtual Christmas markets. Abby organised a music night.

There’s also the general public doing things for us to raise money supporting us or by sharing our Instagram and Facebook posts and helping us get our word out there. That is just as important to us!”

 

Have you seen good engagement through the digital promotion?

“Yeah, absolutely. People do like seeing pictures of our breakfast vols (volunteers), all smiles, and things like that. And hearing real life stories, I think is important on social media, and good news stories. We talk about what we’re doing and numbers that we’ve done and how people can get involved. We’ve also been involved in a few documentaries and things like that. It’s just all about getting the word out really.”

 

How might the funds raised in a Play Find Win draw be able to support Lifeshare?

“We offer choices to those who support us. They can see the money go towards emergency accommodation, towards deposits for long term sustainable accommodation, to the breakfast project, to food parcels. We’re a charity that has the very smallest amount spent on administration and things like that, everything more or less goes back into the service. It’s really down to the individuals. Some have a passion that they want to feed people, others want to house, some others want it to go into education. The autonomy is with them. If they were doing a draw, they could decide where they wanted it to go.

After the draw, we can provide feedback to say thank you – and say we were able to provide X number of meals or Y number of food parcels to families in need. There are many different issues which organisations or individuals can choose to support with their fundraising.

People want to know where the money goes and we are always happy to tell them, share good news stories, and we can give case studies.”

 

To get involved in hosting a draw to support Lifeshare, please get in touch and we will be happy to help start planning, promoting and delivering a fundraising draw for this fantastic charity. You can find out more about the charity’s work in Manchester here.

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