Mother’s Day 2018: On the Streets

Mother’s day can be a tough and challenging time for people living on our streets. Many don’t have contact with their mothers and some are even mums themselves, yet won’t be seeing their son or daughter today.

Many of the homeless people and rough sleepers will be sat, stood or walking around the vicinity they live in seeing families going about their days in a lively and happy mood. Making the day bring as much attention as possible to the mother of the family.

Seeing this can be emotionally and mentally difficult.

However, our chair and founder, Bev, is always there for anyone living on the streets of Portsmouth. She is often known as ‘the mother of the streets’.

Bev received a mother’s day card and gift from all the guys out on the street this evening.

She has a very unique approach when we are out on outreach and a lot of the people we see do see Bev as a mother figure.

When they feel down, Bev is there to pick them up. When they’re having a tough time and need an ear or a shoulder, Bev is there for them.

The whole team were set back by the gesture in all honesty, these guys have very little yet contribute to get ‘mum of the streets’ a card and gift on Mother’s Day.

From all of the people living on the streets Bev, Happy Mother’s Day!

(permission was sought for the photograph to be taken and put on our website.)

#TimeToTalk

Some of you maybe aware that on the 1st February it was #TimeToTalk day. An intitative set up by the organisation Time to Change.

The day that has been established to encourage people to talk about mental health and recognise it’s okay to not be okay. Breaking down stigma around mental health.

Many people whose home is on our streets suffer from a wide variety of mental health issues. Yet they can sometimes not speak to anyone for several days at a time. Living in an isolated world, which rough sleeping can be, is very challenging.

So, what can you do to help?

Maybe when you’re in town or down the High Street, or on your lunch break today, or over the weekend, maybe stop by a homeless friend and see how they’re doing. Just asking a simple question like “how you doing pal?” could really make someone’s day.

Helping Hands Portsmouth pride themselves on the values of treating each individual, we reach out to and support, with compassion, dignity and respect.

What is the cause of becoming homeless?

A question one often asks is “What is the cause of homelessness? Why do people become homeless?” Well there isn’t a simple straight forward answer to any of these questions.

Homelessness is a problem that has recently come to light as a real social issue in the United Kingdom. Seeing a homeless person in major towns and cities in the UK has now become the ‘norm’ but it is still incredibly shocking that in the 21st Century, in a modern world country, we still have people living on our streets. Towards the end of last year, comedian, Russell Howard brought the issue to light in his show The Russell Howard Hour

Towards the end of every year in the autumn period, since 2010, every local authority in England is made to do a count by the Government Department, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The count is an annual event and allows local authorities to see changes in the population of homeless people living on our streets.

To be counted as homeless you have to meet a certain criteria when the count takes place. The government set a direct definiton of what is classed as being a rough sleeper. They define a rough sleeper as:

“People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes” which are makeshift shelters, often comprised of cardboard boxes).” (Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government)

When local authorities are completing their counts they have to adhere to the goverment’s definition of rough sleeping, meaning that there are still some people that won’t meet the requirements and as such are left out of the count. This is because some people decide to sleep in very remote and discrete places (such as bushes and hedgerows) for their own peace of mind. It is important to remember that the figures submitted by undertaking an official count are only inclusive of rough sleepers and not the homeless community as a whole. Those living in temporary accomadation in B&Bs, hostels, sofa surfing and squatting aren’t counted.

Some of the statistics that can be pulled out of the 2016 count are that there were 4,134 people recorded to be rough sleeping in England with 509 (12%) of those people being female and a staggering 288 (7%) of those people being under the age of 25. The graphics below show some of the findings from the data.

(Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2010, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government).

 

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Today, 25th January 2018, the data for the 2017 count has been released by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Some of the statistics that can be pulled out of the 2017 count are that there were 4,751 people recorded to be rough sleeping in England, an increase of 617 (13%), with 653 (14%) of those people being female and 370 (8%) of those people being under the age of 25, including 3 people counted as under the age of 18.

Portsmouth saw an increase in it’s rough sleeper population from 37 in 2016 to 42 in 2017, an increase of 13.5% with an increase from 4 females in 2016 to 6 females in 2017, an increase of 33.3%. The number of rough sleepers under the age of 25 also rose from 0 in 2016 to 2 in 2017. No rough sleeper counted in Portsmouth was believed to be under the age of 18.

The graphics below show some of the findings from the data.

(Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2010, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government; Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2017, for England. Dept for Communities and Local Government)

 

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So, what is the cause of homelessness? Why do people become homeless? There is no one single reason as to why somebody becomes homeless. It is normally a multitude of factors that play a role. Findings from unofficial research carried out by Helping Hands Portsmouth found that common reasons were family breakdown at a young age, and sometimes a step-parent being on the scene and not getting on with the person at a young age. PTSD and mental health issues were among some of the other reasons as well as addiction, prison and disability.

The BBC produced an online article about the stories of some homeless people that live in coastal towns and cities, just like Portsmouth. The link can be found here. BBC South Today also interviewed some of the regions homeless to give them a chance to tell their stories. The link can be found here.

One of our core values here at Helping Hands Portsmouth is that we treat every person we meet on the streets with respect, compassion and dignity. We understand that everyone’s story as to why they are living on the street is different.

We ask that you don’t tar everyone with the same brush. The people living  on our streets are human beings, just like you and I. Treat them with respect. Offering them a sandwich at lunchtime is so simple, yet you maybe the first person they’ve spoken to since lunchtime the day before.

All information used in this article has been sourced and details of sources have been given at the appropriate times. Data for the Rough Sleep Count in Portsmouth was obtained on 28th December 2017 by a Freedom of Information Act (2000) request to Portsmouth City Council. Helping Hands Portsmouth would like to thank Portsmouth City Council for their cooperation with the request.