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Making a Real Change for rough-sleepers; How a new scheme is helping to wipe out homelessness in Wigan and Leigh. Beth Abbit reports.

Byline: Beth Abbit

X-SERVICEMAN Sean found himself living in a Wigan night shelter after exhausting the generosity of his friends.

EWithout somewhere to wash, change his clothes and get a proper night's sleep, the 31-year-old was struggling to perform properly in his full-time job.

He ended up at the Leigh Homelessness Hub, based in the former Leigh magistrates court building in Chapel Street, after losing his rental tenancy.

The shelter and Wigan Council's housing team applied to Real Change for funding to get Sean the ID he required to apply for private rental accommodation.

They then went to various national organisations for funds to help him pay the deposit and first month's rent for a flat.

Falling short by just PS100, they asked Real Change to cover the remaining money.

Sean is one of dozens of homeless people who have benefited from the new homelessness scheme in Wigan and Leigh.

In its first six months Real Change Wigan and Leigh has helped end or prevent homelessness for 47 people across the borough.

Over a third of beneficiaries were rough sleeping or staying in a night shelter at the point of their application to Real Change.

But just a month later and none of them were sleeping on the streets.

Others have been supported to settle into their new home and break the cycle of homelessness, or to avoid eviction in the first place.

Real Change provides small amounts of money to help people move away from the streets or avoid homelessness.

The cash pays for things like training courses, clothes for a job interview, identification to register with landlords, or even a deposit for a home.

Modern slavery victims Jonny and Sara, not their real names, applied to Real Change just before Christmas while staying at the Leigh Homelessness Hub.

Before that they had been staying at the Bed Every Night shelter at St George's in Wigan.

As modern slavery victims, they were unable to provide ID to pass landlord checks, so campaigners at The Brick helped them scrape together PS15 for a new ID.

The card Jonny needed arrived within days, and he and Sara moved into their new place.

Based on Manchester's hugely successful Big Change scheme, Real Change allows people to apply through any of the partners for specific items.

Those under PS100 can be approved immediately, otherwise an independent panel will review applications within 48 hours.

A similar scheme was launched in Rochdale in January.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the public play an important role in tackling homelessness. He said: "Big Change and Real Change are excellent ways for the public to directly support funding for homelessness projects.

"I'm impressed by the start that Real Change has made in Wigan and Leigh - it is undoubtedly making a very significant difference on the ground."

Robbie Cowbury, campaign manager for Real Change, said the scheme is making a tangible difference.

He said: "What's so important to remember in cases like Sean's is that by providing a small bit of money we are able to prevent people spiralling further into homelessness and potentially entrenched rough sleeping.

"We are here to help people at all stages of homelessness.

"And we passionately believe that providing support for people earlier on helps to prevent further personal trauma, increasingly poor health and improve people's life chances before they get trapped in a cycle of despair.

"Homelessness is complex, and by providing access to small pots of funding Real Change ensures that a lack of money is never the reason why people stay or become homeless.

? You can donate to Real Change at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/realchangewiganandleigh
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 21, 2019
Words:607
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