Supported housing tenants in Manchester have shared their experiences of the harsh realities of homelessness at the launch of a book they created.
People living at Sanctuary Supported Living’s (SSL) Victoria House in Openshaw produced the book as part of a literacy project in partnership with Eastlands Homes, now part of One Manchester.
‘Sleeping Rough: The Ugly Truth’ is a collection of their real-life stories and poetry explaining how its contributors came to be on the streets, how they survived and how some managed to find a way out.
In addition to developing tenants’ literacy and increasing their employability, the project has also encouraged discussion among partner organisations, funders and the wider public about the needs of homeless people.
The project began in response to two tenants’ needs at the time: one looking for an activity to take her mind off her self-destructive behaviour and another who dreamt of reading and writing and suggested those living at Victoria House work together to build a library.
A total of 45 tenants helped build the scheme’s library – even as far as installing the shelving – before it opened for use at the start of the year.
After the library’s construction, SSL project worker Maria Marsden signed Victoria House up to Eastlands Homes’ Literacy Beacons Project led by Lynne Harrison, which matches those needing help with reading and writing with local volunteer ‘literacy champions’.
Victoria House tenant John Cloake, 41, said: “I got involved in the book project following my own personal experience because I wanted to raise awareness of the support homeless people need to be able to move on.
“Writing the book has made me feel better about myself and shown me that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”
Maria said: “The book launch really was the icing on the cake for all of the tenants involved. The event gave them the opportunity to proudly show off their hard work to all in attendance as well as speak to representatives from SSL and Eastlands about their experiences when producing the book.
One Manchester Group Chief Executive Dave Power said: “It’s a real privilege for One Manchester to be involved with this project. There is an ugly truth around homelessness and the more we can encourage people who are homeless to tell their story, the more we can understand how to prevent homelessness in the first place.
“We’re an organisation that is passionate about giving people a helping hand to fulfil their potential, and it’s been an incredibly humbling experience to stand amongst those who have told us their stories today. We’re committed to working with a number of partners to support projects like Sleeping Rough – The Ugly Truth which are helping to reduce social isolation in our communities.”