Homelessness: The reasons and help in finding a solution

Published on: 29 Jun 2015

Filton Youth Council decided they would like to do a project to find out more about homelessness and then write this article to share their findings with you. We hope you enjoy reading our article!

On March 11, Filton Youth Council visited The Julian Trust Night Shelter. Upon arrival, we were sceptical about what we would see as our expectations were not so good. We were shown around the building, starting with how volunteers register when they come in (by writing their name onto a whiteboard, which would help the fire brigade in the case of an emergency). We walked around the sleeping/dining area and washrooms and were surprised to see it was not as we expected.
The night shelter is on Little Bishop Street and is open five nights a week, serving up hot meals for up to 90 people, with the first 18 also securing a bed for the night. The people that stay overnight can shower and have their clothes washed.

The volunteers refer to the service users of the shelter as “guests”, and provide a meal to anyone in need, whether they are street homeless or unable to feed themselves. We were given drinks and biscuits before leaving.  We are now more aware of what homeless shelters are and how they operate.
 
Expectations before we went:

  • It will be dirty, smelly, horrible
  • The people will be unfriendly
  • It will be dark and dull

Reality when we were there:

  • It was clean, tidy and well maintained
  • The people were really happy and friendly
  • It was bright and cheerful

 

If you would like to donate, they are always in need of these items as well as financial help:

  • Tinned meats and veg
  • Bedding (single nylon sheets and pillowcases)
  • Men’s and women’s clothing (jumpers/coats, socks, shoes)    
  • Toiletries (small travel-sized bottles of soap/shampoo/shower gel, and toothpaste/toothbrushes)

 You can send donations to: The Julian Trust, Little Bishop Street, Bristol, BS2 9JF. Any cheques should be made payable to “The Julian Trust”.
Alternatively, if you would like to donate but can’t get your donation there, you can bring your donations to FACE, St Andrew’s Methodist Youth Centre, Elm Park, Filton, BS34 7PS before June 30 and we will take your donations to The Julian Trust for you.
If you’d like to volunteer your time, they are always in need of extra pairs of hands – please contact them directly on 0117 924 4604 (evenings only).

Following on from our visit to The Julian Trust, we had a workshop with 1625 Independent People, who talked us through their charity and how they help people.
They are a charity which was formed in 1983 supporting 16-25-year-olds with housing, budgeting and living more independently. They run supported housing as well as having floating support workers who help young people rebuild their lives after they are homeless. They have mentoring schemes and mediation as
well.

We were asked to work out how much we thought we would need to spend each week to survive if living on our own; this included things like rent, food, phone bills, electricity, etc. We were then told to compare our weekly budget to the Job Seekers Allowance weekly budget for a 16-year-old, which is £53 per week. This told us that a teenager living on JSA couldn’t afford to pay rent, buy food, and catch the bus to have a social life and that we would struggle, given that we spent £200+ on our weekly budgets! It was a big shock to us that the Government expects teenagers to be more independent but without a good job we would not be able to afford to live on our own.

One of the people who came from 1625 Independent People was called Nae, and she was part of their peer mentoring scheme, going around to schools and youth groups like us leading workshops.

During this project about homelessness we learned that homelessness can be caused by many reasons; such as poverty, debt, unemployment, relationship breakdown, substance abuse, poor mental or physical health or lack of affordable housing. Although there are many contributing factors for men, the main causes are relationship breakdown, substance misuse, and leaving an institution (prison, care, hospital etc.). For women, the main causes are physical or mental health problems and escaping a violent relationship.

We were surprised to learn that the average life expectancy of someone who is street homeless is only 47 for a man and only 43 for a woman.

Street homelessness isn’t the only kind of homelessness either, there is also squatting, sofa-surfing, and temporary accommodation (living in a B&B or hostel).  The law defines someone as being homeless if they do not have a legal right to occupy accommodation, or if their accommodation is unsuitable to live in.

We learned that local councils have a legal duty to provide advice and assistance to people who are legally defined as homeless or threatened with homelessness. However, not everyone who falls within the legal definition necessarily qualifies for temporary accommodation.

If you find that you are, or someone you know is, facing homelessness, there are places you can go for help. There are also places you can go to for help with debt problems or financial difficulties to prevent you becoming homeless. Here are a few of them…

  • The Julian Trust - Little Bishop Street, Bristol, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, all 9.30-10.30pm

  • Wild Goose Café - 32 Stapleton Road, Easton, Monday 10am-3pm, 8-9.45pm; Tuesday 10am-1pm, 2-4pm, 8-9.45pm; Wednesday 10am-3pm, 8-9.45pm; Thursday 10am-3pm, 8-9.45pm; Friday 10am-3pm, 8-9.45pm; Sunday 8-9.45pm

  • 1625 Independent People - Kingsley Hall, 59 Old Market Street, Bristol or 23 The Parade, Coniston Road, Patchway    0117 317 8800/01454 865732

  • Citizens Advice Bureau - 1 Quay Street, Bristol    Monday-Friday 9.30am-1pm – Drop-in assessment; Monday-Thursday 9.30am-4.30pm – Self Help Information Service; Friday Information Service – 9.30am-1pm

  • North Bristol Advice Centre - Filton Library, The Shield Retail Centre, 0117 951 5751

  • Patchway One Stop Shop - Patchway Hub, Debt Advice – Tuesdays 2-4.30pm; General Queries & Welfare Benefits – Tuesdays 2-4.30pm

  • Ebenezer Church – Free CAP Money Course, 286 Filton Avenue, Horfield, BS7 0BE, 0117 979 1399.    Monday, June 15, 22 and 29, 7.45-10pm. Ring ahead to book your place.

  • Shelter - 0808 800 4444, free housing advice helpline. The website http://england.shelter.org.uk also has lots of information on it.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to donate any items to the Julian Trust you can bring them up to FACE, St Andrews MYC, Elm Park before June 30 and we will take them to the night shelter for you!

Thank you and we hope you learned something about homelessness through our project, too!

Homelessness


Case study

One story has inspired us and we feel that it’s only right that we share it with you. Sarah* was a bright, youthful teen who had a quite easy-going life besides her alcoholic mother.

At the age of 16 she couldn’t tolerate the unsafe environment that was affecting her life. She moved in with her aunt, but when she lost her job her aunt said she had to leave as she couldn’t afford to keep her anymore. She began sofa-surfing with friends then she ran out of places to go, she became homeless and began living on the streets.

Depressed. Lonely. Unsafe.

After some time on the streets she went and took shelter in a hostel for homeless people. She says that they had to share a kitchen between 12 people but had individual beds. After starting to get on her feet she suffered from depression and started drug abusing and ended up on the streets again.

After this really low point in her life she found light at the end of the tunnel, 1625 Independent People. They were so supportive and helped Sarah out of the dark time in her life. They provided a social support group where she could talk about her hard experiences,  helped her find accommodation and she finally found a release for all of the bad feelings that had piled up over the years. She got clean of drugs and now she’s 25 and has dedicated her time to helping people in similar situations as her, as a volunteer.

You would never be able to tell she has gone through all this hardship as she is a very bubbly person. We all found it hard listening to her story but happy that she had managed to turn her life around.

*Name changed

case study


Youngsters outline work to councillors

A group of seven members of the youth council addressed the town council at the annual assembly last month.

The youngsters - representing the 11-strong youth council - outlined to councillors the activities they had been involved in during the past 12 months.
These included a summer fun day, workshops at local schools on anti-bullying and a Christmas disco.

They also spoke about their main project this year, the homelessness work which readers can find out about in the article on these pages.

They said they now needed to recruit new members for their forthcoming work.

The group was accompanied by Debbie Teml of FACE (Foundation for Active Community Engagement) organisation.
Councillors expressed praise for the work of the youth council.

 

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