Tabor House, Birmingham's only permanent night shelter, held an official launch on 10 October to coincide with World Homeless Day.
Small groups of invited guests were given tours of the new facility by some of the staff and volunteers. Mairead Shaw, one of Tabor House's co-ordinators, showed Mayor Andy Street around the communal living area and explained how Tabor House will work.
Speaking at the event, the Mayor said: "The wonderful thing about Tabor House is not only does it give accommodation for a number of days or weeks, but during that time the residents will have support to rebuild their lives so they can go into permanent accommodation. It's that positive approach about rebuilding that's so special about what we see here today. It is a credit to iShelter and the team of charities that have come together to form this."
Guests can stay for three nights or for 28 nights. Those who stay for the longer period are matched with a mentor who will provide one-to-one support to help them access services that will help them turn their lives around, moving off the streets and into more permanent accommodation. Tabor House is the first shelter in the country taking a strength-based approach, where volunteers and staff focus on the skills and ambitions of guests, as opposed to the problems or deficits they may have.
Fr Michael White, Chair of Caritas Archdiocese of Birmingham, one of the organisations behind Tabor House, said: "It looks like a dormitory and, in a way, it is. The people we're dealing with are some of the most vulnerable and destitute people in the city. Some of them are afraid to go to hostels because of the bullying that can take place in hidden spaces. They like the openness of Tabor House. And all through the night we'll have volunteers here, watching over our guests."
Guests will be referred to Tabor House by SIFA Fireside or Midland Heart. At the end of their stay nobody will be sent back to the streets – the staff and partner organisations will ensure they have somewhere to go.
Shelter, hot food, a shower and mentoring are some of the practical aspects of Tabor House that guests will benefit from. As well as this, they will be treated with respect and friendship as they take steps to gain control over their lives. Fr Michael said: "Often, one thing that is lacking is warmth and respect in their lives. We hope that they will find that here."
Tabor House is a partnership between Midland Heart, Father Hudson's Care, Housing Justice, Irish in Birmingham, St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, corporate philanthropists, and other local homelessness specialists. Together they have formed iShelter—a new homelessness organisation that aims to help homeless people turn their lives around.
The project is being managed by the iShelter Management Committee, made up of representatives from the key partner organisations, under the umbrella of Father Hudson's Care (charity no. 512992).
The shelter will be housed in Digbeth in one floor of a property owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham. Thanks to support from the commercial building and trade sector, the group has secured funding to make the space suitable to shelter and care for people in need. It will be managed by two Project Co-ordinators supported by a team of volunteers.
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