Steph Hughes, Operational Manager at Catherine Court

Hi my name is Steph and I am the manager at Catherine Court, where we work exclusively with homeless teenage parents. I have worked for Gingerbread for 17 years and have seen a lot of change over the years, from humble beginnings on Waterloo Road, Cobridge to supporting the Manager at Rothesay Court, Longton, then moving onto manage Gingerbread’s part of the City wide floating support service Smartmoves to finally managing Catherine Court, Hanley.

As with any Charity we strive to grow and move forward to give the very best service we can to the homeless families we support, this being said I do sometimes miss the damp and draughty broom cupboard we laughingly called an office in Cobridge, emptying the cellar with buckets, which flooded each time we had heavy rain, bedsit rooms and finding visitors hiding under beds because they didn’t want to leave on time, ah fun times.

Now we have 2 units which are greatly improved from the bedsits in Cobridge, with both units having self-contained flats and communal areas for families to attend activities, training, meetings or to just meet up and chat with other families. In Catherine Court we have 7 flats in the unit and 4 move on houses on the estate and work with families for up to 2 years. Offering support with issues including tenancy management, benefits & budgeting, education and training, parenting and life skills.

As well as all the serious support we offer, we try to give the families the opportunity to have fun with their children. Every week we have fun activities such as messy play, arts and crafts, cookery, film and games nights and pampering sessions. During the year we try to have at least 1 trip to the seaside or theme park, this year the families went to Wheelgate Park, a 30 acre family theme park and Water Park in Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire. The park includes two large indoor play centres, a farm and a water park, all the families who went said they had a great time. At Halloween we had a ghostly treasure hunt, in and around the unit, families had to find the ghosts with the letters on and then find the spooky film title. We then took the families up to Hanley for the Halloween spooktacular where they had great fun watching the spooky characters roaming the area, Stilt walkers, the fire show, Bubbleologists, Jugglers, Ghoulish games such as apple-bobbing and cookie decorating and Pumpkin decorating. After being suitably scared by all the sights of ghosts and ghouls they all came back for hot dogs and jacket potatoes.

Christmas is fast approaching and with the overwhelming generosity of donations from other agencies, private sector businesses and members the public we try to give all the parents and children the best Christmas we can, especially for those without other family to visit over Christmas. Catherine Court’s support staff plan loads of Christmas related fun activities in the run up to Christmas Day, with Christmas dinner for parents and children staying in the accommodation.

Above all, in everything we do, we always try to remember that the parents we support are still teenagers themselves.