When my daughter was approaching her first birthday, I was walking through the station in Manchester. It so happened that there was a Big Issue seller at one of the entrances and we began to chat, as I opened my purse. I spoke about a dream I’d had the previous night that I was homeless and the resulting compassion I felt for his plight. He looked at me with sorrow in his eyes because he knew I too was about to become homeless. My subconscious knew, my conscious mind was yet to catch up. The following week my daughter’s father made it clear our relationship was over and I had to leave our home. I was jobless, homeless and responsible for a one year old child. Fortunately my family supported me, so I never slept on the streets, but I was very close to it.
The experience has stayed with me and whenever I see someone homeless and on the streets, I feel something of what they are experiencing, even if not to the full extent. Homelessness should not be in an advanced society. We are supposed to be a civilised society. Nightsafe are now able to house six homeless, late teens at a time. They calculate in Blackburn there are fifty homeless teens in total, not including the over eighteens. Multiply this up to the whole country and it’s alot!
There are good things happening, and we are making progress. The Homeless Pods project is a genius idea but we need more initiatives, so what else could be done? Racking my brain for some kind of innovative solutions, I came up with:
- Create a more positive image of homelessness and why people end up on the streets through the media. This will hopefully generate more funds and one to one support and compassion.
- Allocate targets for homelessness reduction to local councils across the UK. There must be money somewhere to invest in shelters and support. Hotels could offer non-booked rooms to the local council at heavily discounted rates!! Would the Japanese mini hotels work in this country 🤗?
- Bags of Sleep is an idea I had a few years ago when the temperature in Brighton dropped below freezing. Brighton has an exceptionally high number of rough sleepers, possibly because of the community of homeless people that live there. The idea is to offer minus temperature thermal sleeping bags to people sleeping on the streets. Obviously, only a temporary fix but could prevent someone dying… better still might be a partnership with Timpsons to get them cleaned 🤔.
Realising homelessness is hard to solve, hmm maybe need to visit the root cause… which could be:
- Leaving home as a child or teenager because its no longer safe, for a variety of potential reasons.
- Losing a job and subsequently a home due to financial pressures.
- Suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues and being unable to face the issues in their home.
- And many other reasons, all of which could happen to anyone…
For all the potential causes, how can we intervene to prevent the risk of homelessness? While Googling, I found this charity in Oxford called The Gatehouse. They offer shelter and comfort in the day and advice on where to go at night, among other things. Seems like we need more routes to help homeless people, like this charity. We need charities and institutions that recognise behind the homeless person there is an actual person.
I’ll keep on thinking of solutions and hope that others will too. Let’s aim, to get everyone who wants one, a bed to sleep in (Preferably with crisp, clean sheets – one of the greatest pleasures in life!)
Love Ruth x