Photography by Katie O'Neill
Born in 1965 Judy was adopted and moved to Oldham a year later. Following a relationship breakdown in 1995, Judy ended up in a women's refuge with her two young children, rebuilding their lives as a homeless family. The experience gave her the passion to fight social injustice. She moved with her children to Stalybridge in 1996 where she still lives today.
Judy became a volunteer at the Lifeline Charity in the early nineties after losing several friends to HIV and subsequently began to work as an under 19's Service, Substance Misuse Practitioner. In 2003 she was seconded by Manchester DAST (Drugs, Alcohol Service Team) to work with Lifeshare who had raised concerns around young male sex workers in the city, with the initiative receiving funding from Comic Relief. Around this time Judy attended university to study for a BA Social Work degree with the sole intention of remaining in the voluntary sector and using her knowledge of law and legislation to give a voice of the voiceless.
Employed by Lifeshare in 2005, Judy was funded to develop the service in to CARDS (Crisis, Assessment, Referral Diversity Service) today’s flag ship service which works with 16-25 year old young people in Manchester and Salford at risk of homelessness and exploitation. Lifeshare are the first point of contact for people on the streets, offering practical assistance, support and information. The charity also provides weekend and Christmas food provision and food parcels to children and families living in food and fuel poverty.
Lifeshare volunteers providing Christmas dinners for the homeless (Photo credit: MENmedia)
Andy Burnham’s pledge to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester by 2020 was the key pillar of his 2017 mayoral campaign... but how successful has he been? Judy says: "Andy’s plan to end rough sleeping by 2020 was unrealistic due to all the welfare reforms and lack of support from central government to local authorities. I believe Andy has put that back to 2024 now and that some government funding has come forward to purchase 200 move-on accommodation places which is fantastic but until Manchester starts to build some affordable social housing and decent private minimum standards homes we are going to be constantly fire fighting."
My fear is the divide will get even wider between the rich and the poor, them that have and them that have not! It's heartbreaking but in a way it also fuels me more to be that voice of the voiceless.
Judy and Lifeshare were recently featured in the BBC series, Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom. The documentary focused on the controversial eviction from the charity’s Charter Street Mission kitchen - their city centre base for 25 years. Judy turns up to discover the locks have been changed and is forced to serve breakfast to her homeless clients from the back of her car. The programme goes on to follow the re-location of Lifeshare’s kitchen to the Limelight Community Centre in Old Trafford.
THE SHOOT: Lifeshare office, Manchester
The homeless charity's office and drop-in centre on Houldsworth Street in the city's Northern Quarter
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
Our shoot with Lifeshare Operations Manager Judy Vickers took place at the charity’s HQ in the Northern Quarter. We began the photography at the top of the building where all the food and clothing donations are stored. Judy photographed against the sheer amount of items in the room was a powerful setting. I continued to photograph around the premises, using the office and the young people’s drop-in space whilst at the same time getting to know more about her personal life and how she became involved with Lifeshare. Lastly I photographed Judy outside the office itself, against the shuttered doors and neglected buildings close by.
Working with Judy on this shoot really opened my eyes to the amount of hard work everyone does within this organisation to show support and provide a safe space for vulnerable and homeless people. It was a pleasure to photograph a true Greater Mancunian and get to know and appreciate all of the hard work she does in the city.