Posted in homeless, motivation, practical support, Research, rough sleeping, street homelessness, support work, tagged engagement, homeless, practical, rough sleeper, rough sleeping, street homelessness, support work on May 12, 2011|
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In a recent survey conducted in day centres (http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/HiddenTruthAboutHomelessness_web.pdf ) 62% of the respondents stayed in a ‘hidden homeless’ setting the night before. That means they were rough sleeping, staying with friends or sleeping in squats. This snapshot data demonstrates that many of those who are homeless are not necessarily engaged with any formal services that are supporting them to address their situation.
It’s fantastic that a survey has picked up on this point. At Simon on the Streets we are working to address this point for those with the most complex support needs. We find that for some people it’s not just the case that they happen to be getting missed by mainstream support, but are often avoiding it due to their history and how they feel about ‘the state’, formal settings and ‘normal people/society’. Through street outreach work we specifically target this group and work hard to bridge the gap between them and the services that can meet their needs.
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The first time I got involved with Leeds Simon on the Streets Community as a volunteer it transformed my life.
Let me try and tell you why.
Nothing can prepare you for your first experience with the Simon on the Streets. Mine being the moment when we turned the corner in the Soup Van to see 40-50 people waiting with hunger and anticipation. I was immediately given the job of handing out the blankets and although closely watched by my new colleagues I was left to settle in on my own with my new job.
As I watched around me, I noticed two things; firstly the practical needs were being met; food, blankets, the finest tea in Leeds. Additionally, I saw emotional support being provided by a formidable group of people. These people, from all different backgrounds and experiences were giving up the most precious thing they had. Their time. They offered a listening ear and a helping hand to those people who, for whatever reason were not receiving it from the recognised support agencies
As my own experience developed, I realised how special these people are and how good it felt being part of their team. As well as providing support to the most vulnerable people in our great city, the friendships and support that exists within the Community creates an environment of understanding, commitment, loyalty and trust. The bond that is created between the workers is something I have not experienced before. Not only is there an abundance of fun, banter and humour, there is an atmosphere that takes you away from life’s challenges and gives you a sense of purpose and belonging surrounded by caring and thoughtfulness.
Everybody is there to listen, not to pry or judge, just to be there when you need to share.
Now in my third year as a volunteer, I find myself sharing with others the joy of being a volunteer with Leeds Simon on the Streets. People can hear how excited and passionate I am about our organisation. However, the way to truly appreciate it is to be part of the amazing team and have your own “first moment”. From that point on, you will be amongst a unique group of people. It might also transform your life!
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