I want to tell you a little about something very important to me. Canterbury day centre, Catching Lives, is facing imminent closure in November 2012 due to funding issues. They need to raise £50,000 to stay open until April 2013, when they will hopefully be able to move to a new building and will be able to afford to continue operating.
Now, most of you would be forgiven for thinking “so what?”. I’m sure you’re wondering why this one day centre is so important. Why can’t the local homeless go to another shelter to get a bed for the night and food? Well, for one thing, Catching Lives is the only centre of its kind in Kent. Without it, the homeless population of not just Canterbury but Folkestone, Dover, Ashford, Hythe and many more places will be in serious danger this Winter. For another, Catching Lives does far, far more than just offer beds and meals.
Catching Lives acts as a forwarding address for local homeess people. This makes it possible for them to apply for jobs, apply for JSA and obtain help getting training and finding work, all of which requires an address for paperwork, application forms and, of course, interview letters to be sent to.
Catching Lives provides clothes, bedding, sleeping bags and other donated items. The centre has a donation collection area, where people donate clothes, bedding and other essentials, which local homeless people can then make use of.
Catching Lives provides laundry and shower facilities, enabling homeless people to not only keep themselves in decent health, but make themselves presentable for job interviews! Getting work is a vital step in breaking free of homelessness.
Catching Lives operates a hub for Big Issue vendors. Big Issue vendors are required to adhere to a code of conduct, remaining drug free and selling their magazines in registered, permitted areas. The magazines are not free - although my figures are likely out of date, when my partner was homeless he would buy a stack of issues for 50p each from the day centre and sell them at the then-standard rate of £1 each. This not only allows homeless people to be productive, but also provides valuable experience in budgeting, money management and planning. A good seller could sell £5 of issues, go back and spend the £10 they make on even more issues, and keep doing so, ending up with enough money at the end of the week to cover the cost of food and put some away in a bank account to save towards a better life.
Catching Lives offers support for people with mental health problems. It is a sad fact of our society that large numbers of homeless people are war veterans, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems. Catching Lives provides a lot of support to these vulnerable people and helps them in so many ways.
Catching Lives runs services to help homeless people access medical and dental care. Homelessness carries a lot of risks, and poor health is one of them.
Catching Lives does indeed provide access to a daily meal to help the local homeless population. Again, these meals are not free, although they are good and cheap. One meal a day is not much, but it can make a big difference to people in desperate need.
Catching Lives, yes, also provides beds. There are few safe places to sleep if you don’t have a roof over your head. Park benches and bus shelters used to at least be relatively dry and safe, but because people object to the sight of a homeless person, these days such facilities are designed so that they are uncomfortable to sit or lay on for long periods, with most of the wind and weather shelter removed to make them unsuitable for a night of sleep. Exposure, especially in Winter, kills people every year. Since Catching Lives only has the funds to remain open until November, this is especially concerning. Homeless people will be thrown out on their rears in the depth of Midwinter.
Without Catching Lives, most of the homeless people in Kent will be forced to survive without aid, resorting to begging, theft or simple starvation, and many will end up displaced to London, Essex and surrounding areas that still have comparable services available.
This issue is something close to my heart. My other half was homeless when we met, and without Catching Lives not only would we never have met each other, but who knows what would have happened to him. He was a teenager when he was made homeless, and Catching Lives not only provided shelter and food, warm clothes and Big Issue work, but a community centre where he met other homeless people, who helped him learn how to survive. Without Catching Lives, he would have been alone.
I had hoped to set up a JustGiving page for Catching Lives but, sadly, they are not yet registered on the site. As soon as they are, I will be, so keep your eyes open. In the meantime, please reblog this and, if you can give even a little money, follow the link above to make a donation. Every penny counts, right now.
You can also read more about the work they do by downloading this pdf.
And they have a facebook page.