2020 is a monumental year for Changing Lives as we prepare to mark our 50th year.
Our Golden Anniversary will be a celebration of the hard work, dedication and support of everyone who has ever contributed to the funding or running of our organisation. We will also be celebrating the thousands of people we have helped through our services over half a century.
Changing Lives has grown enormously since we began in 1970 as The Cyrenians, a small charity in the North East helping people who were experiencing homelessness through our hostels and day centres. We have grown to become a leading, well-respected organisation dedicated to supporting people experiencing exclusion and disadvantage across the Midlands and the North.
Our 50th year feels like a time for reflection, but it’s also a time to be ambitious as we look ahead.
We support over 17,000 people annually through 100+ schemes, stretching from Northumberland to Merseyside and the Midlands. From listening to the experiences of the people we work with, it is clear that many existing support systems are simply not working. A main priority for Changing Lives over 2020, the next decade and in fact the next 50 years, is to move power back to those who matter the most – the people who use our services.
We will work alongside like-minded organisations to challenge and change the support systems for people going through tough times. We’ll do this by demonstrating how to provide genuinely person-led services, sharing our learning and influencing policy and funding.
The person-led approach focuses on listening and deeply reflecting on what people have to say, allowing individuals to define their own strengths and ways to build out of the difficult situations they find themselves in – rejecting pre-determined responses and helping people out of services for good.
We want to see what happens when people, not systems, genuinely take the lead. With this in mind, we are taking a whole new approach to tackling homelessness in 2020 with our capital development at Elliott House. Elliott House is currently a 50-bed hostel that provides short term crisis accommodation. We know from experience that the hostel system does not work – putting a lot of people with very complex needs together often does not help people build a better, long term future.
The new Elliott House will be self-contained flats which will help people move on to their own home as quickly as possible. We will still provide crisis accommodation in Newcastle but this will be in a much smaller service with more intensive support to quickly help people out of crisis and towards a fulfilling life. We are in the very early stages of this development at the moment but I very much look forward to providing further updates on this project over the coming year.
Changing Lives takes pride in being an organisation that is always learning and adapting, and as we begin 2020 it is a time to also think about how we can develop and become as effective and efficient as possible. As a charity, we are keen to ensure every penny counts and I will ensure that this will always be the case as we move our ambitious plans forward.
We have a lot to celebrate, reflect upon and look forward to in the year, and years, ahead at Changing Lives. I very much look forward to seeing what all of that will bring.