The reality of homelessness in the UK
Towards the end of 2016, Shelter announced that more than a quarter of a million people are homeless in England. A few months earlier, the Government reported 73,120 people were living in temporary accommodation, a figure that has almost doubled since 2010.
Bristol has the second-highest concentration of rough sleepers in the UK with the latest figures showing that there are almost 100 people sleeping rough in Bristol every night. In the last year alone, people sleeping rough across the country increased by 52%.
From these figures, it is clear that the number of people who are homeless is increasing at an alarming rate.
Sleeping on the streets can have drastic consequences for the mental and physical wellbeing of those living this way. The average age of death for rough sleepers is 47 for men, and 43 for women. Compared to the general population they are also: nine times more likely to commit suicide, three times more likely to die due to traffic accidents or falls and twice as likely to die due to infection. Almost half of Britain’s rough sleepers (45%) suffer from some form of mental health issue.
What to do if you see someone on the streets
If you see someone who you suspect is sleeping rough, you can inform StreetLink – this service alerts local authorities about the people sleeping rough in their area. You are asked to describe the location and appearance of someone you are concerned about and the service will try to connect them to local services and organisations to help them off the streets. They can be contacted on 0300 500 0914 or at http://www.streetlink.org.uk/.
If you are looking to get more involved, there are several charities in Bristol dedicated to combating homelessness, many of whom accept volunteers, and indeed are heavily reliant on volunteers to keep their services going.
• St. Mungo’s Broadway provides outreach services, hostel accommodation, floating support and a range of health and recovery services to help homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol rebuild their lives. They have several centres but are mainly based at the Compass Centre on 1 Jamaica Street, BS2 8JP.
• The Julian Trust Night Shelter, located in Little Bishop Street provides emergency accommodation and food for 18 people a day. It accepts donations, contributions of food and clothing and most importantly volunteers to help run the shelter.
• Caring in Bristol is a small but effective charity that looks after homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol. One initiative you could get involved with is their Caring at Christmas shelter that provides homeless people with warm and safe accommodation in Bristol over the Christmas period. They also run Bristol Nightstop, which recruits hosts for vulnerable, young people.
Homelessness Awareness Week 2017
From Saturday 18th – 25th February 2017, the Bristol Homeless Forum will be running Homeless Awareness Week – a movement seeking to bring homelessness and the need for services to combat this to the forefront of public debate. Keep an eye out for lots of events that will be taking place throughout the week by visiting their website: http://bristolhf.org.uk/
Citizens Advice Bristol is open for free drop-in advice sessions between 9:30am – 1.00pm every weekday and is a useful place to seek advice on a variety of issues including homelessness and housing options.
People seeking advice can also call our national helpline on 03444 111 444 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk , a comprehensive advice website with lots of information.