By Vicki Gwynne, Operations Manager – Middleport Matters Community Trust
Middleport Matters Community Trust is a not-for-profit organisation currently funded by Reaching Communities (2019-2022). We officially opened our doors in January 2020 following the lease and refurbishment of our community hub.
The majority of people I speak to in the area are friendly, chatty, and full of smiles and humour, but Middleport/Longport is classified as being in the 1% of communities in England displaying highest levels of multiple deprivation (IMD 2019) and the impact of this displays in negative ways: increased levels of crime/ASB, high levels of unemployment and lack of qualifications. Additionally, 32% of children live in poverty, 28% of adults have a limiting long-term illness and 45% of households have no car (Coalfields, 2020).
We support all residents within our community, those that attend through self-referral, professional referral or who walk in the door out of curiosity or in crisis… we don’t ‘reinvent the wheel’ at Middleport Matters – we work to fill the gaps in services and co-ordinate local access. We deliver social sessions, support groups, creative programmes, signpost to other organisations, provide ‘light-touch’ support, and most importantly, welcome and treat everyone kindly, respectfully and as individuals.
As a person who made a multitude of decisions which impacted and changed the direction of my life journey, I understand the harmful effects that labelling, pre-judgment, and access criteria for services can have on an individual…so although we record engagement, learning, support, and outcomes, we don’t ask people to complete forms and don’t ask questions that aren’t needed! We embrace and learn from our shared experiences: positive, negative, past, or current because as The Beatles say, “Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to, isn’t he a bit like you and me?” ( Nowhere Man)
When the pandemic hit in March, while many statutory, and some larger VCS organisations, closed their doors and stopped face to face support, it soon became clear that as well as financial hardship, food poverty and every-day worry, people were facing other challenges such as isolation and declining mental health. Middleport Matters, along with other grassroots organisations, put on our face masks and gloves, and adapted our service to meet the needs of the local community.
One of our aims is to connect people with each other and support community cohesion…but what happens when you’re not allowed to meet up in person, or when you’re digitally excluded and facing isolation? Other requests started to come in from parents and people living alone getting in touch looking for ideas to help overcome boredom.
We distributed activity packs and puzzle books, crafts, and stationery, we provided 3,000 food bags as well as supported 15 families regularly with meal ingredients & recipes. We gave out hygiene items and treats, and most importantly we walked the streets, knocked on doors and talked to people – giving them the connection they needed. This support continues, along with our Men’s Support Group, wellbeing & activity programmes and upcoming Cook & Eat and Players Academy music sessions.
A lot of the success of our projects and initiatives are the result of our brilliant team of paid staff and volunteers, strong partnerships with schools, social care, and other groups/services, as well as up to date knowledge of our community and the people within it.
Let’s see what 2021 brings… hopefully, improved health, safe and trusted connections with family, friends and services, and more funding available for Middleport Matters to grow and deliver bigger projects! 😉
Sophie Hall, Housing and Homelessness Commissioning Manager at Coventry City Council runs the service at the Days Hotel. Working with Crisis, Coventry Comfort Carers and City of Culture, the hotel now boasts a weekly programme of guitar classes, arts workshops and a photography project. “We had a film night recently and 15 people came which is great… It’s a step towards the normal stuff, not just physically but emotionally. Creativity can give people a reason to connect with others… which can last long into the future. This is particularly important during COVID-19 since a lot of the services that provided meals are gone and so are the interactions people had.”