Carecent in York
Paul Harvey reports...
Cat Tottie who is the Project Leader at CareCent, spoke about its work (during our last fully Zoom meeting on July 16th) and described the challenges it faced during COVID. In doing so, she taught us that it was in fact doing far more than its description.
CareCent describes itself as “a breakfast centre for all homeless, unemployed or otherwise socially excluded members of the (York) community”.
Run almost totally by volunteers, it is open six days a week and provides far more than just breakfast. Clients also benefit from clothing, showers and fellowship in this friendly and non-judgemental environment.
As well as a big clothing store (Rotary is a regular contributor of socks for Christmas), they supply toiletries, sleeping bags and more.
It is estimated that around 200 live in homeless accommodation across the city but this total does not include the hidden homeless including people who hide from homeless services or who are sofa surfing. For many, homelessness in one part of a wider support need which might include alcohol and/or drug abuse, domestic issues etc.
The majority of their clients are male and a women’s focused service does exist elsewhere in York although CareCent welcomes everyone.
The number of rough sleepers declined considerably during COVID due to the “Everyone In” scheme that was implemented in two days at the start of Lockdown 1. Consequently the levels of infections and COVID related deaths has been low amongst the homeless community. A COVID vaccination programme was offered at CareCent and there was a high demand for it. It was offered on site because many of their clients had no address for vaccination letters to be set to, might not be able to read or write or might not have sufficient phone credit to enable them to be a part of any mobile phone driven vaccination programme.
Issues currently being faced or on the horizon include the fact that there is a significant shortage of social housing in York with waiting period of up to five year not uncommon; the eviction ban has ended and the rental market is almost inaccessible to those on welfare benefit; health care needs are expected to rise as COVID support declines, and the EU Migration Scheme cut-off date is now passed which means some EU Migrants will loose support and more will be on the streets.
It was pleasing to hear that North Yorkshire Police adopt a safeguarding rather than a more enforced legal approach, a policing system which is perhaps more supportive in York than elsewhere in the country.
CareCent takes no centralized funding because the “client information“ needs which this can lead to may be off-putting to those seeking to access the centre. Hence CareCent helps some people who would not go anywhere else.