As this financial year comes to an end and we pass the milestone of one year since the first COVID 19 Lockdown I asked myself the question:

What did we achieve in one of the strangest years anyone has lived through in our lifetime?

In March of last year we started cooking through the night in the tiny Beacon kitchen to provide meals for the Holiday Inn. The hotel had become the first emergency accommodation for rough sleepers to house them through Lockdown it was set up by Eleanor Watts and managed by the amazing Kath Meighan.

Alison Hepworth our Beacon Drop-in Manager closed the Beacon and set up a community catering kitchen in the space of a week with Jazz Franks and Abi Hardy our Drop in Session Leaders, Ellie Trimble of Church of the Apostles, Stephanie Moore and Becky Elliott of Reach Out to the Community. They catered for countless people during Everyone In cooking over 40,000 meals within 3 months. We stepped back from this in July and Reach Out to the Community continues to cater for the remaining hotels.

In May we restarted street outreach in Manchester city centre heading out with our volunteers in the early morning to engage with those people who had either been evicted from hotels or chosen to stay on the streets. We quickly realised we needed a mobile van to offer a proper cooked meal and partnered with Feed My City, introduced by John Shaw who soon ended up managing it with Greater Manchester Police and Manchester city Council assisting.

In June, Aimee, our Resettlement Worker, returned to work after maternity leave to support new tenants into new homes. She achieved a personal best in December and housed 7 people in 2 weeks! A truly stunning total and undoubtedly made their Christmas brighter with a home to call their own.

Return to Bloom Street

In July we returned to Bloom Street to prepare to reopen the Beacon and our offices to once again provide face to face support in our own space. We sadly had to rebuild our team as several of our staff had left Barnabus to bigger and better things in the first half of the year.

Neil Cornthwaite our partnerships manager did a brilliant job of making us COVID secure emptying the office and onboarding new team members. Abi and Barry our drop in session leaders emptied and reordered the Beacon and set up our new way of working. To ensure our friends could be as safe as possible when they came to us for care and support.

At the start of August we reopened the Beacon as a support centre where we focused on helping fewer people in greater depth as social distancing measures restricted the number of people we could see in a day. This new way of working started to bear fruit immediately and soon we were rehousing people and reaching people on a deeper level than we had been able to previously.

In October Enyo Agada finally moved from volunteer to paid team member as our Dwell Project Leader, praying with our friends, leading our prayer team and Barnabus’ mission work.

In November Martha Urwin rejoined our team and became our Support Centre Co-ordinator, looking after our volunteers and helping Neil launch the Winter Breakfast Project. The Winter Breakfast Project was a cross city initiative to provide a warm Breakfast and basic facilities to people sleeping rough. We worked alongside Judy Vickers of Lifeshare, Audacious Church, Manchester Mind, Ian Rutherford of Methodist Central Hall and Manchester City Council to make this happen. Together we were able to provide 3,659 breakfasts over the winter.

In January we hosted a brand new pilot role for Manchester City Council and the Homeless Partnership, the Cold Weather Support Co-ordinator. In this role the amazing Sareena was able to help well over 300 people move off the streets during the cold weather activations of emergency accommodation. Our Co-ordinator worked closely with all the partners to make it happen, there are too many partners to name and Sareena did amazing work communicating between them all. We hope this role will become a permanent part of Manchester's cold weather process as it helped to not only keep people indoors and safe but also helped many move on to more permanent accommodation and a new life.

In February our case workers Jenna and Eleisha did a brilliant job of assessing support needs in the emergency hotels along with Helen Brown at On The Out and The Men’s Room volunteers. Often with short notice it was brilliant to see our team jump into action to help our friends get off the streets during life threatening snow, cold snaps and storms

Alan, our van driver, is an unsung hero having driven thousands of miles all over Greater Manchester, delivering food to every hotel which was used for emergency accommodation and helped The Booth Centre deliver freshly prepared hot meals to the people staying in the cold weather hotels.

Hendrix Lancaster and Risha Lancaster of Coffee4Craig were my biggest emotional support outside of the Barnabus team and listened to me ranting on. Well maybe they were listening to something else and saying 'hmmmmm yes'. I love you rebels!

We had incredible support from our Trustees, from other partners too numerous to mention as well as the fantastic Beyond BNI Mcr; Kelly Gilmour-Grassam with her amazing team at Making You Content and finally my coach Sarah Musique-Hargreaves who had to listen to me moaning but pushed me all the way to find the positive.

So many local friends who left donations on my doorstep or donated money to keep the lights at Barnabus on. So many amazing churches donating, praying, volunteering - in particular Ivy Church's Faithlift which often gave me the daily encouragement I needed. Companies and supporters who donated food for our 40,000 meals or donated items we needed including gifts in kind or regular monthly amounts or one off gifts to keep us going.

What did I learn?

You can't accomplish anything without other people working as a team. It's always a team effort and we are blessed to have the team we do.

And at Barnabus we know we also accomplished all of this because we had faith that God would provide what was needed for those who have nothing, using us as his hands, feet and voice to serve the city we love, Manchester.

I wouldn't do any other job in the world. 

Yvonne Hope

Barnabus CEO