“So how has this been allowed to happen?”
“Why can’t we just fix it?”
“We are a rich nation; this shouldn’t be going on”
All perfectly reasonable questions from the sixth form college I was working with that day as they spent time on their social responsibility project.
We talked through why it’s a multi-faceted problem needing a number of solutions both on a local and national level.
Smart group, they got why it’s challenging. However, I also got the distinct impression they were somewhat disappointed with us “adults” that had allowed the current homeless position in the UK to transpire over a number of years. Think they have every right to be.
The students, wanted to do something……….…right now. They focused on their local area, contacting churches to see if they would provide a night shelter for local people affected by homelessness, phoning local law firms with expertise in housing, benefits and human rights to see what they could do for local people. Would they run an open free advice session? Would they provide pro bono one to one support if needed?
They continued, contacting local commercial vehicle dealers, for what price could they get a van? Could they equip it with Wi-Fi? Could the local homeless charities provide trained counsellors to operate the van as it visited local homeless hot spots, giving advice and helping people claim benefits? Could it be set up to have a local timetable so that people knew what day / time each week the van would be in their area?
This was a sixth form college where the parents are senior bankers, CEOs, politicians and sports people. So not surprisingly, the students were not shy in coming forward with their ideas and drive to make a change locally.
They did, indeed, end up building strong relationships with the local charities that also attended that day. A great outcome for the local community.
As I drove home, it struck me that this is why I joined Crisis. We are campaigning hard now for changes in government policy and rightly so. However, we need as many of the next generation as possible to have the perspective that homelessness in the UK is not acceptable and to want to do something about it. We need all of our hard fought gains to be further solidified and built upon if we are to end homelessness in the UK.
The day was truly inspiring, even being held up on the M25 couldn’t dampen my thoughts. Great day to be inspired by a group of sixth form students with a desire for change.
By sharing stories we can change attitudes and build a movement for permanent, positive change. Stand against homelessness and help us end it for good.