DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Housing

Bristol man receives honorary degree for life-changing Housing First project

Jasper Thompson has raised more than £50,000 and created 20 micro-flats to help local homeless people get back on their feet

Jasper Thompson University of Bristol

A man who changed the lives of dozens of homeless people after setting up a Housing First project is being recognised by the University of Bristol.

Jasper Thompson, founder of charity Help Bristol’s Homeless, will receive an honorary degree today for his remarkable efforts which involved converting more than 20 shipping containers into individual flats.

In 2017 former restaurant owner and army veteran Jasper Thompson, now 61, was appalled by the growing homelessness crisis around Bristol – a 2019 Shelter report said homeless people in the city were dying at more than double the national rate – so in 2018 rallied round a few friends to collect food, bedding and supplies to hand out to rough sleepers.

When the weather got particularly bad, he felt compelled to do more – and headed into town with extra socks and flasks of hot drinks. His efforts developed into an established outreach group.

Help Bristol's Homeless

“I would always ask the homeless guys, what can I do to help you? What do you need,” Thompson told The Big Issue. “Everybody always said the same thing: ‘a roof over my head’.”

At the same time, donations were coming in thick and fast to his North Street restaurant – more than he had the space for. After calling out on Facebook looking for some storage, a friend offered him a 38ft caravan. Another friend said he could keep it on their land in Bedminster.

Soon it was being used as an office and storage hub for what would become Help Bristol’s Homeless, a charity founded on the belief that everyone needs safe and stable accommodation before they can effectively rebuild their lives. Thompson was given a storage container and kitted it out with some beds. Now there are more than 20, all high quality self-contained accommodation offered to local homeless people alongside support for a whole year.

“People want their own space,” Thompson said. “They might have been sleeping out in a tent with two or three other people. But these units are better than B&Bs and better to live in than a lot of flats.

Help Bristol's Homeless
Inside one of the micro-flats

“It’s important for your mental health. And it gives you an address – you can claim benefits or register to vote there.”

Unemployed residents are encouraged to get involved with on-site tasks to help develop their skillsets – and some have even gone on to bag jobs after working with tradesman around the project.

The site is also home to a converted double-decker bus fitted with beds for 12 rough sleepers who need somewhere to go just for the night, which has been used more than 4,300 times.

Locals are even invited to visit the project to use its shower block, kitchen and laundrette. Thompson said: “If it wasn’t for the local community, this would never have happened. I’m so pleased we’ve managed to raise awareness of homelessness as much as we have.”

help bristol's homeless

The founder said he is “delighted” by his nomination for an honorary doctorate, put forward by Dr Penny Walters, a lecturer in Consumer behaviour, who called him a “shining example of community spirit”.

Thompson, who will soon fly to the US to meet with New Jersey officials who want to emulate the project, said: “This recognition means a lot. As I understand it, they don’t give them out willy-nilly. I’m especially excited about the idea of taking my 16-year-old son to the ceremony. I hope he’ll be inspired and feel proud of me.”

Also receiving an honorary degree at the University of Bristol today is Mya-Rose Craig – a 17-year-old birder, conservationist and environmental campaigner. Mya-Rose, who wrote for The Big Issue in last year’s kids’ climate special, is the youngest British person to ever be recognised in this way.

Image: University of Bristol

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'I want to get out': The fight for people with learning disabilities to live at home – not hospitals
Learning Disability Week 2024

'I want to get out': The fight for people with learning disabilities to live at home – not hospitals

Labour unveils plan to fix rental crisis and immediately axe no-fault evictions
Labour will ban no-fault evictions, confirms Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer
RENTING

Labour unveils plan to fix rental crisis and immediately axe no-fault evictions

'All my stuff is ruined now': Renter speaks out after home flooded with faeces and sewage
Privste renter Decoda Smith
RENTING

'All my stuff is ruined now': Renter speaks out after home flooded with faeces and sewage

Council charges Grenfell residents cleaning fee for memorial to victims: 'Who would think this was fair?'
Grenfell memorial
Grenfell

Council charges Grenfell residents cleaning fee for memorial to victims: 'Who would think this was fair?'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know