For a lot of people, Christmas time is for spending time with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, and chilling out in front of the telly watching Christmas films. However, unfortunately for people that are homeless this idea is nothing but a distant dream. Winter time is often the hardest time for homeless people, as they struggle to survive with no protection from the elements whatsoever.
We sat down with homeless charities Emmaus and HOPE to find out the real problems that homeless people face on a day-to-day basis – not just at Christmas. As well as this, they also tell us a little bit more about the work they do to get people off the streets and keep them off. Keep reading to find out more about their work and how you can support homeless charities for free through Savoo.
When did you begin to realise there was a need for you to get involved in the issue of homelessness in your area?
“Emmaus had been established in France for 40 years before it came to the UK in the early 1990s, all thanks to Cambridge businessman, Selwyn Image. After volunteering at a soup kitchen and getting to know the homeless people there, he remembered a charity he had volunteered with in France as a student in the 1960s.
“He went to his local library, got a Paris telephone directory and looked up a number for the founder of Emmaus, a man called Abbé Pierre. Explaining that he would be interested in setting up an Emmaus community to help homeless people in Cambridge, Abbé provided some money to help to get the first Emmaus community off the ground. Since then, Emmaus in the UK has grown from one community to 29 spread across the UK” says Sallie Winterbottom from Emmaus.
HOPE is a relatively new charity in comparison, having been set up in 1996 on a local level to provide hot meals for anybody who walked in. Fast forward to today and they employ over 50 staff and volunteers and work with hundreds of homeless people each year.
“We run Nottinghamshire’s only 24/7, directly accessible Emergency Accommodation Hostel, where someone can knock on our door and get a bed for the night. We believe every person is entitled to the same opportunities regardless of their circumstance or background” explains Emma Longmore from HOPE.
What services do you offer to homeless people?
“Emmaus communities provide a stable home and meaningful work to people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion. When someone joins an Emmaus community they get their own room, food, clothing and essential items, plus a small weekly allowance, but they are also asked to contribute to the community by working in the Emmaus social enterprises, which are mainly charity shops.
“It is this combination of a home and meaningful work that helps companions, as residents are known, to recover the self-esteem that is often lost when they are homeless and gives them the opportunity to rebuild their life and re-establish relationships with loved ones.
“There are currently 29 Emmaus communities spread across the UK, supporting more than 750 formerly homeless people. There are also four Emmaus groups working to set up new communities to help us to reach our target of offering at least 1,000 companion places by 2020.”
HOPE’s shelter ‘Hope House’ has also become an essential part of life for many homeless people. It provides shelter seven days a week, 365 days per year, since first opening its doors in November 2007.
“We offer a safe environment, clean bedding and towels, hot drinks and meals, advice and support – to help people understand their rights and how the ‘system’ works, shower and washing facilities and personal hygiene items (toothpaste, shampoo, and soap). It also offers storage of personal items – safely looking after personal belongings, clothes – for those in need, a warm and welcoming atmosphere as well as counselling services.”
Does your work stop once you get somebody off the street?
Both charities said that this is, in fact, where the real work starts. Getting somebody off the streets is, the vast majority of the time, just the beginning. People on the streets will often have gone through traumatic experiences which led to them being on the streets or during their time on the streets.
“These problems can be extremely difficult to get over and can require a lot of ongoing support. Unlike a lot of provision for homeless people, Emmaus communities offer a home for as long as someone needs it and there are no limits to how long someone can stay. Emmaus communities offer companionship and support that many people who have experienced homelessness have lost” said Sallie.
Emma from HOPE said “Our staff work closely on a one to one and personal basis with individuals, helping to tackle and prevent issues that cause an individual to become homeless. They will do this by enabling the individual to face up to the issues and barriers that have led to their crisis. Over time, they will help the individual to develop the skills necessary to successfully live independently once again, by tackling their own specific needs.”
Do you think the problem has got better or worse in recent years? Why do you think that’s the case?
According to both Emmaus and Hope, 2017 has seen an increase in those becoming homeless and sleeping on the streets. Sallie from Emmaus explains that street homelessness is really just the tip of the iceberg as many people who are homeless hide away or sofa surf, staying on friends sofas and moving around from night to night.
“Changes to the welfare system, the bedroom tax and austerity measures leading to a reduction in services to support homeless people, have all contributed to this increase, and at this stage there is little sign of this improving. This is why there is such a big need for charities like Emmaus, and why we have such ambitious plans for growth” she explains.
“At a time when councils are struggling with diminishing resources and growing demands for services… welfare cuts/changes to benefits, and also universal credit have left growing numbers of people struggling to keep a roof over their heads, and feed their families. Unfortunately, demand for our service at HOPE is rising – more people are presenting themselves, seeking a bed for the night, especially at this time of year, as the temperature begins to plummet.”
How can people support your charity through Savoo?
You can support Emmaus, HOPE and more homeless charities for free through Savoo. All you have to do is head over to our charity directory and click on the ‘homelessness’ category to see which charities we are working with.
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