Barbara was contacted in October by Sefton Council where she was asked if she could put up a young family – a set-up which quickly escalated into her filling her two guest houses within a month
Image: LIVERPOOL ECHO)
A newborn baby and his 17-year-old first time mum are just two of the people given a helping hand this Christmas by a woman determined to help get people off the streets.
Barbara Godfrey – who runs two guesthouses in Southport, Merseyside – is accommodating those that are struggling this festive season.
Barbara was contacted in October by her local council to ask if she could put up a young family – a set-up which quickly escalated into her filling her two guest houses within a month.
The Captain’s Quarters guest house could be mistaken for a family home, with its toasty living room and space for children to play and watch cartoons.
Owner Barbara said she has been happy to transform her once tourism business into a safe space for people to stay during a hard time in their lives.
“To be honest, it has been amazing,” she told the Liverpool Echo. “I never went looking for it. I never thought it was something I would have done.
“I’ve had the occasional person that the council has asked me to house, so I have been on their books but when the first family walked through the door, then the second and then I decided to open up my home as if it was to family.
“They just became family to me and I started treating them like family to the point where I’m happy to see them go, but I don’t want to see them go because they’re dear to me. They’ve all really grown on me.”
One young mum, Sasha, 17, was taken in by Barbara last month following the birth of her son, Leo. With a son who was just two months old, Sasha was struggling to find a place to settle with her boyfriend, 18-year-old Neo.
“Barbara has been great and has been a massive help,” Sasha said. “We probably would have been stuck in a bad situation if we hadn’t come here. That’s the best way I can put it really.
“I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if we’d have been put on the streets with (Leo).
“If we didn’t have a roof over our heads here the situation would be absolutely awful, but I’m so glad that Barbara has let us stay as long as we have.”
Barbara made the pair feel “really comfortable” at her home, Sasha said, showing them around and letting them know they were safe there.
“Me and my partner weren’t receiving any benefits so we were living off a food bank which wasn’t exactly great. But it helped that when we got here Barbara’s cupboards were always stocked with food.”
Barbara said it is heart wrenching that she can’t help everyone and transforming her guesthouse has opened her eyes to how many people need help.
She said: “It’s heart wrenching. You can’t give everything to everybody.
“I house them, keep them here, make them happy. I provide food for them as well. Sometimes they turn up with absolutely nothing.
Barbara said she “never imagined” that so many people out there needed so much help.
“I think I just walked around with blinkers on because it wasn’t happening to me, but a lot of people have said to me that people are just one pay packet away from being homeless,” she said.
“It’s a massive issue. These people have taken the brave move to run away from poor relationships with absolutely no money.”
Alex, another woman who is staying with Barbara, fled a violent relationship with three of her four children. She said her ex partner, of nearly 20 years, was very controlling and a heavy drinker who would become violent.
Alex said she left in a bid to remove herself from domestic violence.
“It’s brilliant here. We’ve been really well looked after. I have another daughter as well but she hasn’t come with us, she’s staying with her nan,” she said.
“My children have just moved schools so we’ve had loads of help with that and Barbara has been amazing. Barbara cooks our teas and everything for us.
“We’ve had all kinds of donations and stuff. We’ve also got a meal planned for tomorrow night, we’ve had tickets for a light show around the corner, it’s really helped the children settle in because it’s been a massive change for us moving.
“We’ve had to pick our life up and move but Barbara has been fab.”
Now seven weeks on from the family moving into the guesthouse, they are now waiting for the keys to their own home.
Barbara said the help from the people of Southport has been amazing with people dropping donations off.
She added: “I’ve been in tears at the door. Some people come and give money and I promise them that this money counts. Some of the people I house just need a leg up, like some money to get phone credit so they can phone housing up.
“Some just need basic things like toiletries or can’t afford sanitary wear. I know they can go and get help but a lot of them come from out of the area so they don’t actually know where to get those things from.”
The people staying with Barbara are set for a complimentary meal from the newly opened restaurant Larkins on Bold Street Southport as well as the floods of donations from those across Southport.
Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “This Council has a long-standing commitment to helping people suffering from homelessness and supporting those rough sleepers who may find themselves in a vulnerable position, without a safe and warm place to call home.
“I am very proud of the work our teams do to help combat rough sleeping.
“Nobody wants to find themselves bedding down for the night on a cold pavement or stairwell and we are fully aware that with each new day, people may find themselves in need of support through absolutely no fault of their own.
“That is why we continue to urge the public to report an incident of rough sleeping in Sefton, by calling the Rough Sleeper Outreach Team via Light for Life on 01704 501256 or 07918 746042 outside normal office hours and weekends.’’
*Alex’s name has been changed to protect her identity*