We want to create a sense of community where people feel safe, understood and supported.

Over the course of the past 12 years, the charity has experimented, learnt, adapted, and developed a unique, and highly effective holistic crisis support programme built around those it seeks to serve, that enables and empowers people to address the underlying causes of crisis. A programme that is acknowledged nationally as ‘best practice’, has won multiple ‘best in charitable community services’ awards, and is replicateable. A program that also uncovers and gathers evidence of the systemic failures that are contributing towards the problem.

The issues The Matthew Tree Project are addressing across Bristol and South Gloucestershire are reflected throughout the UK. The vison has always been to create a pioneering STEP-CHANGE model that addresses poverty nation-wide and there is now a real opportunity to do just that.

A key factor that makes a step-change possible is the independent status of The Matthew Tree Project. Being independent of government, a national charity or the religious sector means it can represent the true beneficiary voice, unencumbered by potential conflicting media narratives.

The aim of the ‘REBUILDING LIVES’ model is to: ‘Improve the futures of people currently living in, or at risk of, crisis as a result of hardship; focused on building meaningful relationships and supporting people to overcome barriers to access of the services they need’.

‘REBUILDING LIVES’ is set up to intervene early and stop vulnerable households falling through the gaps in service provision. Our immediate concern is to ensure that people forced to make the horrific choices between eating and keeping warm or paying rent, do not go hungry - which has a devastating effect on someone’s mental and physical health. This is where, and how, our intervention begins.

However, underlying the emergency crisis, people have complex and multiple needs which can only be effectively met through understanding of the issues and empowering people to take appropriate actions; and this is achieved by building meaningful relationships, over time, coupled to a personally tailored joined-up multi-agency collaborative approach.

‘REBUILDING LIVES’ is highly effective at addressing the problem of an ever increasing number of people and families who are living with impossibly low unsustainable income levels.

Victims of this have a mixture of needs:

  • The need to feel safe and secure
  • The need to have improved health and well-being
  • The need to have support networks and feel connected
  • The need to have improved resilience
  • The need to have new or improved skills
  • The need to have hope and a purpose

Whilst housing, food and fuel costs continue to increase sharply, for the poorest fifth of households, growth in income is not keeping pace. The income inequality gap is widening, the number of households struggling with unmanageable personal debt is increasing; new working patterns disadvantage the low paid.

The long-term impact of the pandemic combined with the cost-of-living crisis is economically and emotionally devasting for a very high number of households, already on low income, who find themselves unable to cover essential living costs and make ends meet.

Over 90 statutory and non-statutory organisations refer their most challenging cases to the 'REBUILDING LIVES' programme, and self-referral is accepted to catch those who fall through the gaps. The unique and highly effective 'REBUILDING LIVES' crisis support and wellbeing services are needed now more than ever.

At the point of referral, many beneficiaries are at high risk of homelessness and are in need of uniquely tailored help and support to prevent this from happening.

The ‘REBUILDING LIVES’ model is delivered by way of a small team of qualified and skilled staff working through larger teams of dedicated, well trained and well supervised compassionate volunteers.

Each case is supported for as long as there is a need, currently 3-6 months on average across all cases, with a full ‘wrap-around’ range of personally tailored support services.

These services include but are not restricted to:

  • Acceptance, inclusion and the time to build relationship and understanding of the causes, barriers and unique issues of every case
  • Client navigation to other support services required
  • Weekly supplies of fresh, chilled, frozen, ambient food for the whole family
  • Nutrition and dietary advice
  • One-2-One mentoring including practical and emotional support as needed
  • Skills training in specific issues, i.e. budgeting; ICT; home cooking; careers; food growing; food waste reduction
  • Advice in debt; housing; employment; addiction recovery; fuel poverty; mental health; family breakdown; abuse
  • Crisis grants for essential household items and emergency payments

The holistic nature of the ‘REBUILDING LIVES’ model:

  • Recognises people as assets, equal partners in designing and delivering the services. Not as passive beneficiaries or burdens on the system
  • Builds on people’s capabilities to ultimately benefit their communities, themselves and those around them
  • Develops two-way reciprocal relationships on equal terms
  • Empowers people to build a happier, better and healthier future for themselves