A SUPPORT group set up by a former addict is seen as a lifeline in the community as the threat of homelessness has risen over the last three years.

Recent figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, show that the number of households at risk of homelessness in St Helens has steadily increased in recent years.

In 2022-23, the data shows that 834 households were owed prevention or relief duty, which is money provided by the council to those threatened with homelessness or to homeless people who are trying to secure accommodation.

This number has risen from the 804 households being owed the duty in 2021-22 and 736 in 2020-21, although these figures may be skewed due to extra financial help from the government during the pandemic.

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St Helens Star: Matty launched the group in 2021 to help those at risk of homelessnessMatty launched the group in 2021 to help those at risk of homelessness (Image: Come Together)
One of the services in St Helens that is trying to help with this situation is the 'Come Together' group, which was set up by former addict Matty Molyneux in 2021.

Wanting to try and help people who have been in a similar position to himself, Matty's group offers eleven different projects to support the socially isolated, those with mental health or addiction problems, and those at risk of homelessness.

The team works with other services in the borough, such as the council, Teardrops, and Change Grow Live, but Matty says that there has been an increasing demand for their services since Come Together launched.

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St Helens Star: The group get involved in weekly football sessions to reduce isolationThe group get involved in weekly football sessions to reduce isolation (Image: Come Together)

Speaking about the group, Matty, from Windle, said: "The group has been growing and growing over the past two years, and there is more demand than ever for our services.

"What we have witnessed over the past twelve months is that things seem to be getting worse and worse, with more people being referred to us.

"I don't think the homelessness checks are always accurate either, as I know that people find places where they don't want to be seen."

St Helens Star: The group also offers digital support sessions at the Millennium Centre The group also offers digital support sessions at the Millennium Centre (Image: Come Together)

Acting as a stop-gap project as more professional services often have long waiting lists, the Come Together group offers a varied programme that includes football matches, yoga and meditation classes, allotment sessions, recovery and wellbeing support, community outreach events, and more.

With homeless people and those at risk of homelessness often struggling with mental health or addiction issues, Matty said that their non-judgemental sessions have had a great response from those who get involved.

St Helens Star: Allotment groups are also offered to help with mental health issuesAllotment groups are also offered to help with mental health issues (Image: Come Together)

Matty, 46, added: "We offer eleven different projects throughout the week, that are all free, and around 80 to 100 people come to these now.

"The majority of people who take part really love coming along and having the opportunity to do something social without being judged.

"We try our best to support these people and create something for everyone." 

St Helens Star: One of the groups ‘boxersize’ classesOne of the groups ‘boxersize’ classes (Image: Come Together)

Although the Come Together group has made hugely positive steps over the past two years, it can be a struggle to offer their sessions as the group is not funded or financially backed.

However, while the team cannot afford to offer professional support, they have made "great connections" with their members, and other support services which they often refer people towards.

Adding that the group is "not going away" anytime soon, the goal is to become a fully funded charity so that they can gain a permanent hub and full-time employees, and expand their services to support more people across St Helens.

St Helens Star: The group has also helped to donate Christmas goody bags for the homeless or those at risk of homelessThe group has also helped to donate Christmas goody bags for the homeless or those at risk of homeless (Image: Come Together)

Speaking about those threatened with homelessness and the support that the council provides, Councillor Mancyia Uddin, St Helens Council's Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, said:

"One individual or family facing homelessness in our borough is one too many, so these statistics are concerning and demonstrate that more investment is needed from Central Government into funding more affordable housing and that local authorities like St Helens Borough Council are funded fairly to help tackle this issue.

“Everyone deserves the right to housing - that’s why our team of dedicated homelessness prevention officers work with local partners to identify rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness so that assistance can be provided, but this can’t be done without long-term funding.

"Residents are still feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and this has led to an increase in demand locally for services such as housing and homelessness support. More money needs to be allocated from government to support residents who, without this support, may experience homelessness.

“As we head into the cold winter months, we would encourage anyone with a housing problem to not go it alone and to reach out to us for support as soon as possible. Our services will do all we can to prevent homeless. 

“If you've seen someone sleeping rough or who may need support, please contact our Housing Options and Advice Service on 01744 675150 - or report via Street Link.” 

For support with issues such as debt advice, food and fuel support or advice on housing you can find out more at the council's dedicated pages here: www.sthelens.gov.uk/sthelenstogether