Homelessness in the UK and How You Can Help

You can’t go about your day in London without passing a homeless person and probably a lot more than one. It absolutely breaks my heart and with the weather getting colder and colder, it’s more important than ever to something about it. I have been wanting to volunteer with an organisation that looks after homeless people for months but it was the kinds acts of a few friends that finally spurred me into action. I have spent the evening contacting charities and hope to have a regular volunteer position in the next few days. For anyone that wants to join me, I will post details as soon as I have them.

The most sickening and upsetting part about it is the amount of people who walk past, seemingly unaffected, and go about their day. Homeless people are treated like a scourge, and ignored. Noone wants them there, they make us feel bad. They make us feel guilty.

I think a lot of people try to justify ignoring homeless people by relying on outdated preconceived ideas about how people end up on the street. They put it down to personal failure, drug addiction, or even personal choice but the real reasons people become homeless are much more complex. In fact, a relationship breakdown is one of the main causes of homelessness. Domestic violence, unemployment, mental health issues, sexual or physical abuse, lack of affordable housing, lack of support and crippling debts are all also high in the list.

In recent years, the success of the Facebook page, Humans of New York has done a great job of reminding us that homeless people are people too. They are just like you and I. Humans of New York, in case you are not familiar, is a photo project. People from all walks of life are photographed and their pictures accompanied by a quote or anecdote. Some are funny, some are extremely sad, some are real eye-openers and all of them are real stories about real people. The people behind HONY do a beautiful job of capturing all facets of life and many more “Humans of …” pages are popping up all over the net.

This graffitti artist in LA draws homeless people’s dream homes.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/16/graffiti-artist-homeless-dreams-skid-robot-photos_n_5991808.html

Homelessness in the UK

The most recent figure I could find is that on any given night in the UK, about 2,414 people are sleeping rough. And numbers are increasing. This figure doesn’t include anyone sleeping in shelters or with family or friends. This is the number of people out in streets. However, it is very difficult to calculate the actual number of people without a home and research suggests up to 62% of homeless people are “hidden”and will not show up in official figures.

There are an estimated 400000 “hidden homeless”in London.

Homeless Veterans

Its enrages me to think that such a huge number of people sleeping rough are ex-miliatry. People who have risked their lives for their country are disregarded when they get home. Many suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and other health issues caused by their time in service and many more have problems with drugs and alcohol. Its is estimated that up to 100 veterans sleep rough every night in London. What does that say bout our society?

How you can help

Not everyone has the time to volunteer, but you can always do something small to help. Buy someone sleeping rough a coffee, tea or even some hot soup. Donate spare blankets, sleeping bags and flasks. Donate shoes and socks, jackets and warm clothes. Noone should be sleeping rough, especially in this weather.

If you DO have time to volunteer here are some great organisations you can contact and see what you can do in your area;

St Mungos; http://www.mungosbroadway.org.uk/how_you_can_help/volunteer

Shelter; http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_involved/volunteer

Shelter from the Storm; http://www.sfts.org.uk/volunteer/

Streets of London ; http://www.streetsoflondon.org.uk/about-homelessness

Crisis ; http://www.crisis.org.uk/pages/volunteer.html

Chorlton Mad Dogs; these guys are in Manchester. They collect donated food and cook up hot meals and deliver them to homeless people all around the city. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Anyone could end up on the streets. Some of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that are in a position to support us when we fall on hard times and the means to pick ourselves back up again. I have been fortunate enough to get a good education which makes me more employable and makes job application forms more manageable. I speak fluent English. I have appropriate interview clothes and skills. I didn’t do a single thing to earn these privileges but benefit from the every day.

A poll of 2,000 UK adults we commissioned in December 2013, found that 32% of people have experienced homelessness (including sofa surfing and staying with friends) or know someone who has experienced homelessness. 14% had experienced it themselves, 20% knew someone else who had experienced it, 2% said they had both experienced it and knew others who had. –  (homeless.org.uk)

Be thankful for what you have and help out those less fortunate than you whenever you can.

Weapons of Mass Production: Volunteering with Green Youth Collective

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Yesterday (Sunday) I volunteered in District 9 with Youth Green Collective. It was so nice to get out of the city and get some fresh air. The land is tucked away inside a small Vietnamese village with plenty of coconut trees, banana trees and right on the Dong Nai river.

Green Youth Collective is a small, non-profit with the goal of creating awareness and interest in green and sustainable products and practices in Saigon. Ultimately, the aim of the business is to train local disadvantaged youths to assemble, install, and maintain green roofs, vertical and container gardens.

Their first project however, is a plot of land in district 9, which they will use as their headquarters and for training. “GYC has realized that for all we hope to accomplish, we need a large space to carry out our experiments, demonstrate our products, and educate our future employees. The land in D9 is 6000 square meters, and will be our education center for hands-on learning.This will be a space designed to inspire the youth and anyone who comes to visit. We envision hosting both local and international courses in areas such as permaculture, natural building, natural product making, design, organic gardening, meditation, yoga, traditional crafts, or whatever area someone is motivated to host a course in. The Green Youth will also be trained here, so for a few months before they begin their job of installing our products, they will get hands on experience with the soil, seeds, building, maintaining, planning and designing.”

This is what some of the plans look like;

https://www.facebook.com/notes/green-youth-collective/things-to-do-at-the-d9-land/566962910007352

Its a really interesting and exciting project. I will be really curious to see how things are going in a month, three months, even six months down the line when I am back in Taipei!

Progress so far…..

handwash station

handwash station

two clay stoves have almost been finished

two clay stoves have almost been finished

banana tress have been planted around the shower but while they are growing, coconut leaf walls has been put up for shade and privacy

banana tress have been planted around the shower but while they are growing, coconut leaf walls has been put up for shade and privacy

shower floor

shower floor

some beds have been made but nothing has been planted just yet

some beds have been made but nothing has been planted just yet

Imagine the delicious meals you can cook when the all the raw materials you need are growing right in your kitchen!

Yesterday, we started to make the compost heap.

clear the patch and put up post around the edge

clear the patch and put up post around the edge

I forgot to take a picture of the first layer, which was dry sticks and branches to keep the compost a little off the ground and let air circulate.

green leaves

green leaves

a little lime

next: a layer of brown leaves

cow dung mixed with water goes on top.

Then repeat! We covered the compost heap with coconut leaves to keep the heat in.

I hope to get out to district 9 again before I leave at the end of this month. Watch this space………