Opinion

"People need somewhere to go where they feel welcome, safe and accepted"

Big Issue reader Ellen Storey shares her big ideas on how we can prevent homelessness and protect jobs. Our Ride Out Recession Alliance needs your thoughts too, get in touch at rora@bigissue.com

We asked readers to contribute their ideas on how to tackle the homelessness crisis as part of our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Today we’re sharing The Big Issue reader Ellen Storey’s suggestions:

Hi,

It’s great that you’re offering The Big Issue readers the chance to contribute ideas to what certainly seems like a foreboding future in terms of homelessness and general deprivation. I had no fixed address for many months and the experience still haunts me, so I would like to offer some suggestions. I’m not a radical thinker, rather someone who would like to help others going through this kind of ordeal.

I was greatly helped by a housing advocate who stepped in when my local council tried to absolve their duties by claiming I had intentionally made myself homeless (really, who does this?) So I wonder if more people could be trained in this area of advocacy (as well as mental health, autism, addiction, and debt) to help those who really feel alone, vulnerable and powerless in challenging careless, clinical decisions made by local authorities. I myself am a trained community advocate and this is a voluntary role, so it needn’t be a costly solution.

You will no doubt be familiar with the Youtube channel ‘Invisible People‘, which is a wonderfully educational channel that gives the average person invaluable insight into the lives of the homeless and how easily anyone’s life can unravel. I wondered if some of his ideas would be useful in combating prejudice or ignorance and garnering more support.

Seeing this ‘sanctioned camp’ in San Francisco was comforting, because whilst still only a stopgap, it helps homeless people to feel safe enough to sleep, and they have somewhere to go to the bathroom and recharge their phones, which goes a long way to maintaining good mental health and opportunities to move on by being contactable. When I lived in Nottingham I belonged to a church which opened its doors to a group called Sharing Sherwood which cooks vegetarian meals for the community once a month, using food donated by supermarkets. The donations offered are ploughed back into food banks and charities for the homeless, and the atmosphere at the meal was wonderful, as a diverse range of people from the community came, so it also addressed the issue of loneliness.

Tackling isolation is such a huge part of homelessness

Finally, how about more community cafes where people could obtain donated food or heavily discounted local produce (like ‘wonky’ vegetables!) without having to queue, as foodbanks can be humiliating for many? They could also give back to the cafe with any skills they would like to offer. If the stalls were outside this would encourage more homeless people to approach them as they pass by.

Tackling isolation is such a huge part of homelessness — that was the most crushing thing for me, because I felt judged and rejected even by friends. People need somewhere to go where they feel welcome, safe and accepted, even just for half an hour a day.

I realise these suggestions are just drops in the ocean and unrelated to the root causes of homelessness. Nevertheless, I hope they will be of some use, perhaps in conjunction with others.

Thank you for all your efforts and concern for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Kind Regards,

Ellen

What do you think about Ellen’s ideas? Do you have your own big ideas on how we can prevent homelessness and protect jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? Let us know at rora@bigissue.com

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