Figures suggest homelessness has doubled since the implementation of austerity by David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 (statistic via Crisis, see below), with both direct cuts to homelessness services and wider cuts to welfare and benefits driving people onto the streets. Now the temperature is dropping. Here are some thoughts on what we can do to help (Bristol and beyond):
> Via the Streetlink website, you can can enter an accurate site for a genuine rough sleeper, and an outreach team in the relevant area will make their way there as quickly as possible to act on the report. You can also call their 24-hour hotline on 0300 5000914, it’s a nationwide service http://www.streetlink.org.uk
> Similarly you can contact St Mungos Outreach Team by using this link http://www.mungos.org/tell_us_about_a_rough_sleeper. A member of their team will make contact with the individual with a view to helping them into emergency short stay accommodation
> Sponsor a room with Centrepoint. This offers young people a long term solution to homelessness http://www.centrepointroom.org.uk
> Become a St Mungo’s ‘campaigner’. Sign up to keep informed about their campaigns, they will send you updates about the latest campaigning activities and information about ways you can get involved http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action…
> The Julian Trust welcomes donations of (new) boxer shorts (small/medium), socks, jeans and t-shirts. They also need blankets and (bath) towels. They do not require womens’ clothing. Donations can be received 8pm onwards on the nights they operate (not Sundays/Thursdays). Julian House, Little Bishop Street, St Pauls, Bristol, BS2 9JF. Telephone: 0117 924 4604 (evenings only)
> Get involved in The Julian Trust’s sponsored ‘sleep out’ on February 28th http://juliantrust.org.uk/…/JT-Sleepout-2016-registration-f…
> Email you local MP. Have they noticed the increase in homelessness? Can they raise the issue in parliament? https://www.writetothem.com
> In Bristol, the mayoral elections are forthcoming. Contact George Ferguson (Independent, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Marvin Rees (Labour, i don’t have a contact for him – does someone else?)
I recently received an email from George Ferguson which included the line “If you’re not able to offer your support, then I would still love to hear from you about any issues in Bristol that you would like to discuss.”. I have written back.
> Buy them a hot drink and/or some food. We’re never more than 200 yards from a coffee shop.
> Stop for a chat, shake their hand, give them a hug. Ultimately as we all know life is little more than a battle of wills – offering them some positivity and support may give them the strength they need to keep fighting.
These are people who are nameless and faceless when they are sitting out in the street but when you get to know them, they are stories of great courage, of struggles against unbelievable adversity. I think I probably would’ve been a broken person had I lived through what they lived through.
Do you have any other suggestions? Please add in comments if so.