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Posts Tagged ‘rough sleeper’

According to Bradford Speak Out:

“Four out of ten of single homeless people have squatted at some point, so Government plans to criminalise squatting risk hitting the most vulnerable.

Of course homeowners have to be protected and current laws should be enforced. But plans to criminalise people squatting in derelict buildings would penalise many who have no other option. We think that ministers need to focus on the root causes of homelessness, not its consequences.”

I think it also bolsters the point from last week’s blog about rough sleeper numbers: https://simonfoundation.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/rough-sleeper-numbers/ that the nubers don’t really matter, what’s inportant is how able we are to engage and support people in all areas of life and not simply their housing.  Our work has seen us over the years supporting many people who were sleeping in derelict buildings who have have been far more vulnerable than some people sleeping out in the open air.

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Channel 4 news last night reported on the rough sleeping numbers:  http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid601325122001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bctid=1137708210001 

 The report stated that official national numbers were 440 in 2010 and up to 1,768 in 2011, this rise was due to a change in the way the data was collected using estimates as well as actual counts.  The report gives some very interesting information not least that of a direct access hostel in Crawley that stated they had turned away 1,900 people over the last 12 months because they were full.

 I’m still not convinced these kind of sensationalised news stories are really doing anything constructive.  Talking about providing housing and getting people off the streets seems a bit like a sticking plaster reaction to something as a society we feel is wrong.  The real challenge for most rough sleepers is far greater and more deeply rooted than somewhere to live and without a real sustained effort to overcome all their challenges and the underlying root causes providing housing is at best a short term fix and at worst a fast track to an eviction and little chance of re-housing further down the line sustainability is a more viable option.

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Today we are going to the funeral of one of our service users.  In the ten years that I have been involved in this kind of work I have been to far too many of these.  As with any other funeral it is a time to reflect on the good memories we have, which really helps us to forget about the challenges people face and ensure we bring their humanity to the fore.

The guy whose funeral it is today was a fantastic story teller; and he had some great stories.  What I’ll remember about him is the way in which he always told his tales in such hushed tones that you had to lean in to hear him properly, it created fantastic anticipation for what you were about to hear…

The other side to this for us is how the other people we support cope with the death of a friend.  For many it is a double edged sword, not only is there the grief of a lost friend to deal with but also the reminder of how fragile their own life could be.  We aim to use this fragility as a way to power motivation to change, but sometimes it pushes people deeper into their feelings of hopelessness.

That’s why we can never lose hope!

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The Children’s Society yesterday reported on the numbers of pre-teen runaways increasing (link below) and the risks that these young people face once they have fled their home or care. The report noted that a child runs away from home every five minutes in the UK and one in three of these will go unreported.

As a society we seem easily able to understand the impact that this type of thing has on children and how unacceptable it is that they are left in such a vulnerable position. The report also said:

“Agencies are unaware of the scale and nature of the problem and often fail to see runaways as children in need. Yet the report reveals that a quarter of them are forced to leave, often fleeing violence, abuse and chaos at home.”

For us we know these young people who miss out on a good start in life and then slip through the net of services all too often end up as adults with some fairly challenging support needs. The tough bit for us to swallow is when these people aren’t children anymore ‘as a society’ we seem to think differently. But they are the same people with the same traumatic pasts, they simply can’t be seen as ‘helpless’ anymore even though they are officially vulnerable adults.

A few hundred years ago these people were known as ‘sturdy beggars’, and were punished for begging when they were physically able to work. Today society is still obsessed with people’s physical ability to work and blames ‘choices’ to become drug or alcohol dependent adults or their irrational and problematic behaviour as the reason for their situation. As the above shows we have to get away from the physical and have more capacity to work with the emotional and psychological state if people in this situation are to find a way to reach their own potential.

http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/news-views/press-release/report-worrying-new-trends-increasing-pre-teen-and-male-runaways

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The local Government Ombudsman has expressed concerns around how Local Authourities behave when people seek help and advice around their homelessness issues in the current economic climate.  ‘Gatekeeping’ is the term that keeps popping up.  We certainly find it frustrating that the people we support who really struggle to engage well with support services and have many complex support needs can find themselves not only wanting help but needing to be motivated enough to fight hard in order to get what they are entitled to.

Dr Jane Martin, Ombudsman and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England, said:

“The complaints we receive suggest councils should consider how they meet their responsibilities to homeless people. We see too many cases where individuals have suffered injustice at a particularly precarious moment in their lives when they most needed help.

“Often extremely vulnerable, they can find themselves sleeping rough or on people’s sofas, struggling to find the foothold that would allow them to change their circumstances. When councils fail to give them a helping hand at that key moment, it can affect that individual for years.

“I am concerned that more people could now suffer injustice because of the combined impact of a tough economic climate and the serious budget pressures on councils. It’s really important that councils are alert to this very significant risk. We want to help them understand the dangers and take action to avoid mistakes.”

For more info: http://www.lgo.org.uk/news/2011/jul/lgo-highlights-councils-failings-legal-duties-homeless-people/

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The Participants from the 2010 Event

This Year’s Sponsored Sleep-Out will take place on the night of September 29th.  The idea is to take on a challenge that is worthy of people sponsoring you, with the added bonus that it is related to what Simon on the Streets does.  Our aim is also to offer an insight into our work and the challenges our service users face.

If you are interested in joining us please email us at admin@simononthestreets.co.uk  We are just putting the final touches to this year’s event; in the mean time please see what we did last year:

10pm              Meet the team and register

10:30pm         “Walk of Awareness” a short walk led by some people who have personal experience of rough sleeping

11:15pm         Arrive at the sleep site for hot soup and a roll

12pm              How to build your bed demo

12:15pm         Bed down for the night

7am                Hot sandwiches for breakfast

I hope you can join us.

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There are three main strategies that we employ to engage with the group of people we support who have real challenges engaging with support services. They are a regular and committed presence on the streets, to approach people with simple human kindness and a patient / never give up attitude. 

Our worker in Bradford, Mat has been in post for a few months and is now starting to see the benefit of this approach:

There’s a guy I know only as Paul. I’ve seen him quite a lot as I’ve walked round Bradford, at projects or just walking round town.  During street outreach sessions I’ve been up to him to say hello, offer him a chat and a coffee and predictably he looked quite uncomfortable and left as quickly as possible.  Whenever I see him he’s usually on his own and almost always appears to be under the influence of alcohol.  Last night when I was visiting a project that offers free food to those who are homeless he came up to me, I didn’t even see him before he touched me on my arm and told me he had an appointment at a hostel, and if that didn’t work out he’d contact me.  I told him who I was but he said he knew.  

Reflecting on it with Jon, it’s difficult to attribute what has been important in getting Paul to want to do that.  The seemingly ineffective first meeting, the times he has seen me talking to other service users, or just being out there, are all important.  It demonstrates we are there for people and can be relied on and also means you catch opportunities like this when they arise.   Felt good though.

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