When Dan* lost his roofing job he had no idea that his life was about to spiral into a nosedive that would see him become homeless and sleeping on the streets
As such he was caught by the safety net of YMCA Lincolnshire’s ground-breaking Nomad Centre, which aims to help people like him to get their lives in order and make a fresh start.
Many people are closer than they realise to being in Dan’s situation; part of the significant number of people just a few paydays away from homelessness and becoming part of the shifting and often invisible population of rough sleepers, sofa surfers, and those being helped by organisations like the YMCA and its Nomad Centre.
Lincolnshire’s Freemasons have channelled a £15,000 donation from the Freemasons’ charity the MCF into the facility, opened in November 2019 on Lincoln’s St Rumbold Street, in an attempt to make a difference to those whose lives have sunk to a lowest ebb.
It provides a short-term place to sleep in 22 single rooms not unlike budget hotel chains; somewhere not only to get a shower, wash clothes, and get a hot meal, but also to reach beyond those immediate needs and work with other agencies to set service users on the right path.
Said Provincial Charity Steward Peter Tong: 'The money we’ve provided is less of a donation and more of an investment in a long-term lifeline for hundreds if not thousands of people, not just now but for many years into the future. The YMCA helped between 300 and 400 people last year, and there’s no reason to suggest that number is going to get any smaller any time soon'.
Caroline Killeavy, CEO of YMCA Lincolnshire, said problems were getting worse: 'We’re seeing more people suffering from mental health issues, and the last 18 months have compounded the problem. There’s a hidden social trauma of lockdown. We are seeing more and more people facing difficulties over things like relationships, finances, and domestic abuse. People feel trapped and unable to cope, and want to turn their back on it all. That’s how they end up on the streets.
'Sometimes people don’t understand the trauma of homelessness. Imagine being outside; frightened, and alone. This is a safe house. Imagine the relief people feel when they come here and have some dignity restored'.
The Nomad Centre is not Lincoln’s only facility operated under the YMCA Lincolnshire umbrella. Other locations – Tennyson House and Sheridan House – offer another step up the ladder to the normality of dignity and a proper life off the streets; the former to those under 25; the latter for women, a growing sector of a so far male-comminated homeless community.
Of Tennyson House Caroline said: 'We’re trying to raise the quality of accommodation, and to make people feel valued. It’s close to student accommodation, so the young people we’re able to place there ‘fit in’, but we still offer 24-hour support'.
But just as the problems of homelessness are hidden in plain sight, so is the success of the Nomad Centre. Added Caroline: 'We have seen people come through the system lots of times because the agencies involved in providing help haven’t worked as well together as might have been the case – until now. Many can’t get healthcare because they’re not registered with a GP, so their only option is to visit A&E – but they’ve not had an accident, and their problem isn’t an emergency. When they see how long they’ll have to wait, they turn around and leave.
'The Nomad Centre has enabled us to build a ground-breaking partnership. Having this building has cemented together the agencies involved, brought healthcare professionals on site, and enabled us to deliver a physical and mental health facility under our Triple H banner of holistic health for the homeless'.
Dan’s experience: The difference Nomad has made
'When you’re on the street what you have to deal with is horrendous. You go from 100 to zero in no time. Imagine having nowhere to go, or to make a cup of tea, or even to sit comfortably.
It’s not just that you need a roof over your head, but food’s a problem too. When you’ve not eaten for a while it gets hard to eat; I couldn’t manage whole meal when I first came to the Nomad Centre. I’ve got a decent room here – but anything is decent when you’ve been in the street, because when you end up homeless you can’t wash or shower.
I’m grateful for where I am now, and thankful that I can move on to Tennyson. That means I have a proper address, and it will help me find a job in construction. I’ve been a roofer, but I’ve got qualifications that mean I can do other stuff too. I’ve applied for jobs this morning, but it’s tough to do over the phone; easier to get your point across face-to-face, but you can’t always get that because of the pandemic.
I’m not looking for freebies. I’m just looking for a leg up…'