It is a sight we are all familiar with, and one that has been covered in local and national news recently; individuals sleeping on the streets of our towns and cities. But how often do we actually think about the human in front of us, and their situation? And what can you do over the Christmas period to help?
Homelessness figures in Britain are difficult to determine. This is due to the way in which homeless people often relocate, travel on night buses, and sleep in hidden areas. Furthermore, it is difficult to discover how many people stay at friends houses, or squats for example.
This difficulty in determining numbers is also due to the method by which local authorities count homeless people: rough sleepers are counted on a particular night, but this only includes those who are visibly bedding down on the streets at that given time. Thus, homelessness figures can only be regarded as a minimum estimate.
Nationally, the latest homelessness figures, which were published in 2010, stand at 1,768, according to Homeless Link. Although the majority of these individuals do not sleep rough in the long term, these figures do demonstrate the high numbers of people without a home at any one time.
These individuals are often stigmatised, marginalised and stereotyped by society. Figures released by Homeless Link state that, of the 1,768 counted, around 33% had drug problems, 48% had alcohol problems, and 30% had mental health issues (some individuals may overlap within these categories). However, 21% had neither drink, drug or mental health problems.
Furthermore, although 32% of those had been in prison, 10% had been in care, and 6% in the armed forces. Despite there being some obvious causes for homelessness, a variety of different people become homeless for a variety of different reasons.
People are often lead to homelessness by factors such as accommodation shortages, reported earlier this week by One&Other in an article relating to the Great British Property Scandal, unemployment, low incomes, relationships breakdowns, domestic violence, or the death of a partner, to name just a few. This demonstrates the point that homelessness effects all sorts, from all sort of backgrounds.
The Government’s rough sleeping strategy, ‘No One Left Out’, aims to work alongside other agencies to put an end to rough sleeping by 2012. The strategy aims to prevent the flow of people onto the streets, and support those currently sleeping rough to get off the streets through advice and action. So far, action by the Government, the voluntary sector, charities and community action have helped to reduce rough sleeping figures.
Furthermore, national charities such as Crisis, Shelter, and the Big Issue Foundation, do a lot of work to help people avoid homelessness, get out of homelessness, and to support those currently homeless.
The Big Issue Foundation provides a method by which homeless people can earn a legitimate living to move away from homelessness. Shelter provides advice and support to individuals facing housing issues, and lobby the Government and local authorities to effect change. Crisis provide education, employment, housing and well being services to aid individual homeless people.
On a local level, despite being quite an affluent area, York has quite a high proportion of homelessness, even if it isn’t as obvious as in other cities. Part of the cause of this has been put down to a lack of affordable housing in the area, especially in today’s economic climate of reduced incomes, job losses, and a higher cost of living. Police and the council, as reported by York Press, are currently trying to crack down on beggars who have been associated with violence, harassment and crime. However, we must not tarnish all homeless people or beggars with the same brush; not every beggar is homeless, and not every person is this stereotyped version of a homeless beggar.
To tackle the issue of rife homelessness within York, the council and many charities and organisations are doing their bit to help. Arc Light delivers support programmes and accommodation. Safe and Sound helps young homeless people to break the cycle of homelessness and unemployment, and provide them with accommodation. The Salvation Army work alongside homeless people, providing meals, support, and accommodation.
Also, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a York based organisation is very active in tackling issues surrounding poverty, including homelessness. They carry out research to provide a voice for homeless people that informs policy and practice concerning homelessness. The Council works alongside these charities and organisations, as they work together to provide and refer homeless people to temporary accommodation provided by these organisations.
An issue particularly relevant at the minute, due to the economic climate and the increasingly cold winter months, what can you do to help reduce homelessness and support those who are homeless within York? Many of the aforementioned charities and organisations rely on volunteers, hosts, and donations, so get in touch with us at email@example.com to see what you could do to help out.