Preventing homelessness starts with speaking to primary school kids

Experts and people with lived experience of homelessness will speak at the conference taking place in Glasgow today

Routinely speaking to primary school children about preventing homelessness could make a difference to reducing the number of people without a home – that’s the message from the annual Homeless Network conference taking place in Glasgow today.

More than 250 delegates have headed to the event to hear from formerly homeless speakers as well as health professionals, housing providers and Minister for Local Government Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart MSP.

Prevention is a key aim that is shared by The Big Issue and personal testimonies, Q&A sessions and workshops will all focus on how to identify early opportunities to stop people falling into homelessness in the first place.

Opening the conference, David Ramsay, change lead with the Homeless Network (who changed their name from Glasgow Homelessness Network this week), spoke about his own homelessness, which came about after spending time in prison following a chaotic adolescence.

“There’s a gap in my life between an ordinary working-class childhood in Glasgow and around 10 years ago,” says David. “Today I have a home, a job and a family but in my 20s and 30s I was all over the place and ended up in prison. After I became homeless, I saw for myself how the system results in people being trapped in a cycle of unsettled temporary accommodation, substance abuse and a lack of control.

DID YOU KNOW…

In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.

“I see now there were loads of opportunities for someone to step in and give me the direction I needed and the tools to help me change my life. These occurred in my family environment, primary and secondary school, the NHS and even in prison. We are individually responsible for our own future, but young people need guidance at that critical point in life.”

Writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, a friend of The Big Issue, will chair this year’s conference.

“When I was asked to take part by the Homeless Network, I was forced to challenge my own ideas,” he said. “Like many I believed that homelessness was an intractable problem, too ingrained to ever be solved.

“However, with the right approach that may not be the case. I also recognise the burning need to stop people becoming homeless in the first place. That starts early, well before someone is at risk. This conference is about identifying opportunities that exist to prevent homelessness in those communities most at risk.”