What can you do to help the homeless in Liverpool?
Recently an American boy brought his mother – and a whole restaurant – to tears after he persuaded to buy a homeless man some food.
But branches of the same restaurant here the UK have been embroiled in controversy after claims they have refused to serve homeless people – or even those who look like they might be homeless. A landscape gardener apparently had to persuade staff to serve him after they refused to give him food because he was wearing dirty clothes.
The national burger chain have denied they have a policy of refusing to serve the homeless. But both these incidents suggest a few misconceptions about who the homeless are and the best ways to help.
Who are the homeless?
Around 280,000 people from all walks of life became homeless last year, and experts say it’s a problem on the rise. Research by homelessness charity Crisis found a huge range of factors can cause people to become homeless, including family breakdown, leaving an institution, and mental health problems. For women, escaping a violent relationship often leads to homelessness.
Drug dependency can be another cause – in a 2011 Crisis study of single homeless people 32 per cent had experienced drug dependency – but mental and physical health problems, poor education, having been in care, self harm and the loss of a partner are also important factors.
Centrepoint says their research shows that six in 10 of the young people they help have been forced to leave because of arguments, relationship breakdown, or simply being kicked out.
Who should you tell?
If you see a rough sleeper here in Liverpool, you can call The Whitechapel Centre (24 hours) on 0300 123 2041 . Whitechapel Centre is linked with “No Second Night Out”, who say 60 per cent of rough sleepers are new to the streets and aim to make sure that anyone sleeping rough for the first time doesn’t have to do it again.
The Whitechapel Centre
They are open 365 days a year providing a service to rough sleepers, people living in temporary accommodation and those at risk of becoming homeless. Last year they cared for 2,605 homeless people.
They see a path that runs all the way from rough sleeping and street living to accommodation, independent living and employment, offering routes out of homelessness back into the community. They believe there are practical things we can do to address the factors that can lead to homelessness. Their aim is to help people find the solutions that work best for them and deliver positive outcomes.
What’s the best way to offer long-term support?
Ultimately, it’s long-term help that’s going to make a difference. If you can, donating to a charity to support their work is a good way to do something deeper to solve the problem. Whom you donate to depends on whose work you feel strongly about.
There are a wide range of homelessness charities, all of which help different groups of people. Our very own Whitechapel Centre here in Liverpool work to help young people who end up homeless.
Crisis helps single homeless people, while Shelter, the largest of the UK’s charities, gives practical advice via its phone line, campaigns for measures to alleviate the housing crisis and trains people who work in the housing sector.
Crisis says the law needs to change so single homeless people can access better help. Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs, says helping individuals is a good thing to do but won’t resolve the issue as a whole. “It is extremely heartening to see how people are moved to help when they see someone who’s homeless, but acts of kindness alone won’t solve the problem,” he says. “We also need the government to review the help single homeless people in England get under the law so that no-one is forced to sleep rough.”
The charity argues that better funding for homelessness services and more affordable housing is the best way forward.
If you feel passionately about the issue, support The Whitechapel Centre locally by taking part in the fabulous Liverpool Sleep-out on 16th October 2016 to raise funds of the homeless or support Shelter & help them push for more affordable homes leading effort to tackle the deeper roots of homelessness.
By Bernie Hollywood OBE