Last week, I announced my plans for a new homeless shelter in Liverpool. Offering a unique and inclusive place to call home, the 24-hour venue will open its doors on 10th October 2018.
We have chosen to open the shelter in a spacious converted warehouse on Cotton Street. Equipped with everything we learnt from Kingsway House last winter, we’re looking forward to welcoming the city’s homeless community into a warm and safe environment.
We’re hoping to feed around 200 people by day and sleep 50 each night. I also feel it’s important to make Cotton Street a place of productivity and opportunity; the shelter will incorporate a joinery and upholstery workshop to offer Liverpool’s homeless the chance to learn valuable skills and boost their job prospects.
Not forgetting, the shelter will be given a Signature Living touch! That means bright, uplifting decor as well as entertainment. Our visitors will be able to make the most of a pool table, tennis table, chess boards and bean bags.
So as we look forward to the future and embrace all that we have learnt, I felt it was necessary to reflect on the past. Last winter, we opened Kingsway House, and one of the most challenging projects I have ever taken on began.
Pioneers of the future, Prison Guards of the Past
The heading to this narrative equates to human behaviour – it means that when you come to a well-orchestrated system that has been measured by tick boxes and not by achievements, you end up with a homeless epidemic. I believe this epidemic is fuelled by an insincere government, closing the doors on society’s most vulnerable people.
Last year we came with a different approach…and it’s safe to say that the powers that be did not like it. To say we’d entered another person’s garden would be an understatement; the garden privets were so high, it was impossible to see inside.
I opened the door to the garden last year on December 4th, with what I have to admit was never what I intended it to be. The winter had been drawing in and with it came the need for our homeless to seek shelter.
Offering Our City A Better Alternative
Every day we were asking our city’s homeless to leave our various sites, but they just kept on finding a way back in. On the 2nd December I decided rather than fight it, I’d offer a better alternative. We had plenty of office space within Kingsway House and certainly enough food. So, on the 4th December 2017 Kingsway House was born.
We never intended for it to be open as long as it was, to us it would be known as a short-term crisis shelter, not to be confused with the government funded operations that reside within our city.
In fact, the people we housed (which peaked at over 80 people of a night) were mostly barred from the local shelters due to their mental health and their drug and alcohol dependency.
We also fed 150 people 3 meals, every single day of the week. Other shelters had been sending the homeless back out to the street at the inhumane time of 6am, which later changed to 8am following the opening of Kingsway. We chose to keep our centre open all day.
In the winter of 2016 5 people lost their lives to hypothermia in the doorways of Liverpool. The winters of 2017/8 brought days just as cold. To my knowledge, one poor soul had already lost his life in a doorway in 2017, just before we opened our doors.
The Storm That Hit Kingsway House
Nick Small, a local councillor stated that we opened Kingsway as a publicity stunt and that the Liverpool people would see it for what it is. I wish that was the case…what I witnessed made me feel ill, I was now not only in their garden, I was absolutely in the eye of a storm and I was not welcome.
Maybe it has something to do with the £11.7 million pounds that we squander each year and the fact that I did not have my hand out pleading to the council for their help. I believe, it was this that led to a plethora of power-hungry councillors putting pressure on their officers to visit us every day, leaving us without any leeway.
Police continued to visit us on many occasions. Officers on the beat would bring people they had found on the streets to our shelter but we were still threatened with what can only be described as a cease and desist notice.
They stated that if anyone lost their lives at Kingsway, I personally would be hit with a corporate manslaughter charge. And yet, homeless people die in their shelters every year, in fact one died last week. However, there will be no case to be answered.
Sadly, what this now means is that you can leave a man in a doorway to die of hypothermia, but if you dare bring him inside you are taking on the full responsibility and will be held accountable. This means we have now red taped a large part of our humanistic desire away from what these poor souls need.
The doors to Kingsway finally closed following a deal that I made with Joe Anderson, our city’s Mayor, who in fairness, had to battle internally with the three amigos who are no longer at the main table.
I stated that I would close on the 28th February 2018 and when we came to that date our weather had taken a turn for the worse. I had no other option; we had to keep the shelter open as the temperature outside was abhorrent.
I feel we were singled out, we calculated that the powers that be hit us with everything they had, in total we had over 50 visits from our city’s gate keepers. You name it the council sent them in.
So as we get ready to open the doors to our new shelter, I’m remaining optimistic. Lets hope that times have changed and we are now accepted into their world; I am sure we will make a change to the plight of our city’s homeless.
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