In 2010 the charity revamped its identity to help raise its profile in tackling homelessness in Canterbury and to promote the benefits it provides to the local community. Now officially re-launched as Catching Lives, the new branded identity was carefully chosen to illustrate its work and help the public understand the challenges it faces as a charity tackling a difficult and perhaps unglamorous subject.
Since October 2009 the Catching Lives team have helped to house over 30 homeless people in Canterbury and helped dozens more enter rehabilitation programmes. Although Catching Lives often discovers between 30-40 homeless people living in and around Canterbury, the number of vulnerably housed, the hidden homeless, is significantly higher and is of equal concern.
According to Ewan Flack, the Service Manager, “The root cause of homelessness in Canterbury has not always been the lack of housing or willingness to address the problem, but an historic focus on short term measures only. This is evident when you visit our Canterbury Open Centre, near the Canterbury East Station, which is visited by 15-25 homeless people every day seeking help and safety”.
Alongside its partners, including Canterbury City Council, KCA and CRI, Catching Lives is developing a new approach to tackling homelessness - a more complete solution. This common sense approach involves working together with local partners and bodies to not only help Canterbury’s homeless off the streets and into safe accommodation, but to tackle the root causes of homelessness and create long term solutions.
This new approach starts at the Catching Lives funded Canterbury Open Centre, which draws homeless people for daily support and care. Having built up a level of trust, the Catching Lives team work to address underlying health and mental problems, and also, to offer access to appropriate programmes designed to help re-build self-confidence, pride and self-esteem – this the charity believes is the key to a lasting solution.
In October 2009 the Canterbury Open Centre was physically remodelled into a day support centre and what the charity today sees as a physical net to help catch troubled lives. As well as providing basic human needs, such as food, washing facilities, donated clothing and at least temporary safety from what can be a harsh and dangerous life, Canterbury Open Centre now provides case workers equipped to deal with the many challenging personal problems encountered;
Terry Gore, the Deputy Service Manager at Catching Lives, adds “It is just a natural perception, and one often perpetuated through the media, that homeless people are largely criminal junkies and substance abusers who have turned to the streets. In our extensive experience, the reality is people living on the streets are there following serious financial problems, relationship breakdowns or through underlying mental health issues. Drugs and alcohol become effective and accessible tools to help them survive and block out their fears or pain. We know that if we can help them with their addictions we can then start to help them address their underlying issues. The public would be amazed at what difference removing addiction makes in tackling this problem as they would in understanding the extent of the mental health care issues often overlooked. This wider care approach has allowed us to address many people’s underlying issues more effectively soon after they start to visit the Canterbury Open Centre and has seen great result; including, over 30 people re-housed since last October (2009) alongside many more positive outcomes for other visitors to our Canterbury Centre”.
Working With The Community: As a fully independent charity with a new lease of life and local backing, Catching Lives has started a programme of working with the wider community to help educate people about the reality of homelessness and gaining their support through volunteers and fundraisers.
Ewan Flack adds, “With cuts looming and homelessness more than likely to be pushed to the back of the political agenda the questions are who will tackle this problem, how and with what resources? The answer is whilst Catching Lives is prepared to take the lead we, the local community, need to all play a part. It is not just the lives we are saving but our local community we are enhancing”.
In September a special programme for schools will be available, and throughout the summer the Catching Lives team will be helping grow awareness of its mission and purpose. Already the Lounge of the Farm festival adopted Catching Lives as its charity as have a number of key firms in the area – a sign that the community is starting to put its weight and support behind the cause to see a better city for all.
For Editors: Further information on any of the points and topics above as well as logos and imagery are available through Catching Lives marketing partner, Think Media. For interviews with representatives from Catching Lives or to visit the Canterbury Open Centre please also contact Alex Ridings at Think Media – 01227 808046 / alex.ridings@