Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) has been working with the homeless community in Chester since 1972. During that time, the charity had grown to a service peak by 2010 to include: day centre services, outreach service, emergency night shelter, 22 bed - longer term hostel and four move – on shared accommodation houses, resulting in a seven - figure turnover, employing 40 staff.
In 2011 changes in local government direct grant funding of services to a new commissioning of services model unfortunately resulted in CATH losing its annual grant awards. The charity well served by healthy reserves balance quickly reorganised and restructured its model to continue operating, albeit in a reduced capacity. But CATH’s organisational reputation remained high in the local community.
Moving through the last decade the charity has transformed itself from the fallout of contract loss to a financially healthy organisation delivering independent supported accommodation (34 beds) and day services. COVID has proved a challenge, but the charity has thus far come through relatively unscathed. But challenges going forward will be aplenty.
Key annual income streams, housing benefit and donations, continue to yield satisfactory results, but will that be enough in a post COVID world of undoubted change? Will long held partnerships still exist? Will CATH be able to identify with, and link into, the changing patterns of income and service opportunities? All questions that will test the charity going forward, as there is little doubt, it will be a contested future. But the CATH mission statement ‘helping homeless people to help themselves’ will no doubt continue to focus the mind, propelling all involved to bigger and better things.
Trustees, staff and volunteer morale remains high and there is an excitement about what the future might hold when the charity reactivates its full - service programme. The future is CATH.