The Arts have a vital role to play in limiting the effects of homelessness

Tony Lloyd at Backstage Me, homeless event

Speaking at a national event to discuss poverty and theatre at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd backs the arts as a vital asset in the fight against the damaging effects of homelessness.

The performing and visual arts can all limit the likelihood of homeless people’s vulnerability to crime and anti-social behaviour, Tony Lloyd said, when speaking at Backstage? Me? on 11 April, a national conference organised by the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Tony Lloyd referred to evidence from current theatre projects that engage homeless people as proof that arts participation and creative, adult education improves the chances of homeless people finding stable accommodation, employment opportunities and qualifications and helps to build confidence.

Referring to a long-standing partnership between the Booth Centre, a support service for homeless people, and the Royal Exchange Theatre, his speech outlined high rates of success when homeless participants are encouraged to pursue personal development opportunities through performance activities.

He said:

“Of the homeless people encouraged to participate in activities here at the Royal Exchange, many experience complex multiple problems, including substance misuse and mental health issues. However, as a result of their participation and the support of the Booth Centre, 80 have now moved to more stable accommodation and 20 who were at risk of losing their homes have been helped to maintain a home. A further 6 have moved into paid employment and 46 have gained a new qualification, offering inarguable proof that well-managed projects of this nature have a benefit to society as a whole.

“Homelessness puts people in a position where they become susceptible to many aspects of crime, more often as victims and occasionally as unfortunate offenders. Supporting those with experiences of homelessness to enjoy and participate in the arts has been seen to foster renewed feelings of purpose, where hope might otherwise be lost. It is undoubtedly a valuable role that the arts are increasingly playing in putting lives back on track, and arts organisations should be supported to fulfil that role.” Tony Lloyd

At the same event, Homeless Link, a national charity supporting people and organisations working directly with homeless people in England, published a paper recommending continued investment in arts projects for homeless people. The Get Creative: Art For All publication calls for organisations to embrace the arts and creative projects, thinking innovatively about ways to inspire change in homeless people and move away from traditional methods of support.

Fiona Gasper, Executive Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, said: “We have been working with the Booth Centre for the past five years, using theatre processes and practice as creative tools to develop the social and personal skills of homeless adults. This partnership has not only enabled us to engage with a really exciting initiative which is running right on our doorstep, but over the course of the programme we have seen first-hand the value that this work has for the participants taking part. As an organisation we believe that giving people opportunities to realise their creative potential and to express themselves is fundamental to personal development, and the partnership with the Booth Centre has been all about that.”

Amanda Croome, Booth Centre CEO added: “We have seen some remarkable changes in some of the regular participants; people who started off sitting at the side and watching are within a few weeks at the front performing in front of the group and keen to get on stage with an audience, showing such a leap in their confidence and self-esteem. The group have created strong social networks where they are encouraging each other to reducing their drinking and drug taking and get off the streets and into hostels. The people taking part in the drama are moving on in their lives at a much better rate than people who just attend the drop-in sessions at the Centre”

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