The Salvation Army has announced that its 'hostels' - residential centres for homeless people - are being rebranded 'LifeHouses'.
The name has been chosen by service users and staff to match the organisation’s emphasis on purpose and relationships in its homelessness services, says the organisation.
The rebranding of 83 centres across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, effective from today (8th March), is aimed at helping the church and registered charity to better highlight its homelessness services which focus not just on providing housing and accommodation, but also on helping residents to have purpose and build relationships.
The Salvation Army is one of the largest providers of support and accommodation in homelessness services in the UK, and around 3,500 people stay every night. Staff and service users (residents) at Salvation Army centres chose the new name in a nationwide ballot, with LifeHouse the clear winner.
Maff Potts, The Salvation Army’s Director of Homelessness Services, said: "This is not a pointless rebranding exercise but a defining moment for The Salvation Army. The word 'hostel' was linked with old-style warehousing of people and didn’t convey that there’s more to our support services than simply housing.
"LifeHouse clearly demonstrates that we are about providing purpose and relationships – two words which are at the heart of our delivery of support services. Since 1865, The Salvation Army has looked at helping the whole person and not just their problems. We know that putting a roof over someone’s head is useful, but not the solution."
The Salvation Army has been enhancing the work within its centres for homeless people for a number of years but the introduction of the new name will accompany an expansion of the activities run in the centres, and of the training offered to services users with programmes that develop purpose and relationships to improve service-users’ self-esteem, mental health and employment prospects.
To help tackle the lack of positive relationships for many residents, The Salvation Army has set up a partnership with social enterprise organisation Goals UK, to provide self-esteem training in all LifeHouses for service users.
People who are homeless and socially excluded also often lack confidence, say those who work alongside them. In order to help them to develop purpose in their lives, the Salvation Army is also creating 900 posts which will be filled by long-term unemployed people, referred by Jobcentre Plus and funded by the Department of Work and Pensions' Future Jobs Fund, whose task will be to set up fun activities and community projects.
The changes in The Salvation Army’s homelessness services follow an in-depth study of 967 Salvation Army service users by the church and charity organisation, with the help of the University of Kent and Cardiff University.
The Seeds of Exclusion research revealed that many people who are socially excluded and homeless lack positive and supportive relationships with family or friends, with 51 per cent saying they spent most of their time alone, 26 per cent had no close friends and 32 per cent had attempted suicide.
Maff Potts added: "For several years now The Salvation Army has been refocusing its services for homeless people based on the principles set by our founder William Booth but still those who stay with us could not escape the stigma of being in a hostel.
"Rather than hire a branding agency we asked the people who know best, the people in our services – service users and staff to choose the name for us. An astonishing 667 votes were cast by service users showing they are keen to work with us in improving our services.
"We believe that everyone is valuable and no-one should be stigmatised because of their past or where they live. The Salvation Army hopes that, as a culture, we will start viewing people who are 'homeless' as people who have a contribution to play in our society."