Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Social Class and Homelessness.

A recent report suggests that the middle class are the emerging group of homeless.
But at what point do we record these distinctions? Is alcoholism and drug addiction class distinctive or do the middle classes just hide it well? Are we to assume that middle class people all have savings, mortgages or family to help them out in their time of need, I know plenty of people who would consider themselves middle class but have none of these. If we are to assume a definition of middle class then is it someone with a good education, in a professional job and a home owner? 
Do we need to put aside these useless definitions and make people realise that homelessness can happen to anyone, as we don't know what the future holds and how we will cope with it. Can any one of us ever say we will never be homeless? Maybe, we need to do more to open peoples eyes and make them realise that mental health, physical health, addictions, bereavement, self harm, domestic violence, abuse, unemployment are common factors that can contribute to someone being homeless regardless of their class.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Homelessness and debt management.

It becomes increasingly difficult to cope with debts during a time of recession. Many of us have debts, loans or mortgages, but many homeless clients also have debts.
Shelter have shown that there is a link between the repossession of homes and unemployment. So inevitably many of these people may become homeless. Click here
As unemployment rises and people struggle to pay their mortgages or rents. Are they seeking support to deal with these debts before they spiral?
From my experience it seems that many people hide away from their debts until it all becomes too much. At what point do they begin to engage with services? Can we make it easier to access support and deal with the reasons why the debt occurs and not just the debt itself?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Working to bring resources, services and teams together for maximum effect.

One of the aims of The Spike is to bring together teams within the homeless sector, from across the country and possibly the world and to share our knowledge and experiences. We hope that by doing this we can maximise service potential within this sector and work more efficiently and effectively with rough sleepers and homeless clients on the front line.

The Spike is now using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and we hope to reach a variety of services and front line workers. Support is steadily growing, we have 156 Twitter followers, 43 Facebook friends and we recently joined LinkedIn. Please join us and take part.
Facebook (Homelessness Outreacher or The Spike group) or Twitter at TheSpike2010

We have used the MindMeister tool to create a quick link base to various support services used within the homeless sector by front line workers. This diagram breaks down possible needs and then provides (in most cases and where possible) a website link to that service or resource.


Give us your comments about this tool and tell us what you would like to add or remove from it.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Societies Reaction to a Homeless Person

The issue of homelessness is rather complex at times, but the response to a homeless person is usually quite simple. It seems that many people have a general fear or loathing of those they see sleeping on the streets and I can only guess this is due to ignorance or misconceptions spread by the tabloids. While others may look on them with pity and unwittingly patronise them with their willingness to help.

But slowly and surely people are spreading the word that a homeless person is the same as everyone else (as those with a home). A homeless person can be a mother/father, a son/daughter, or a sister/brother. They may have hopes and dreams and made some good choices and bad choices in their lives as well as anyone else in society.

Here are some ways that homeless people can now be heard, so that perceptions can begin to change. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Crisis Changing Lives Sophie's Story
                                 Lydia's Story   
Doing it homeless      No Box Blogs           This is a cool Story 

What is your reaction?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Will the end of the Workers Registration Scheme help those already rough sleeping with 'No Recourse to Public Funds' ?

As of 1st  May 2011, the worker's registration scheme will no longer exist. This currently effects A8 Nationals living and working in Britain (A8 countries are Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungry, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). It means that as of this date, A8 nationals will have the same rights as other EEA (European Economic Area) Nationals in this country. See Directgov for EEA and A8 info

Currently A8 nationals cannot access Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) until they have worked for 12 months in accordance with the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) and have to pay £90.00 to register on this scheme. They can not access benefits unless under the WRS and have completed 12 months of employment. For those that have not completed 12 months of employment required due to illness or unemployment, they are not entitled to benefits until they can complete the allocated time in employment.

The biggest changes to the cancelling of WRS is that A8 Nationals can now register for income based JSA (as long as they meet the same criteria as  British Citizens accessing benefits). They should also be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefits.

While researching this issue I have been unable to understand how this effects those A8 Nationals already in this country. Much of the documents I have read comes from the perspective of someone newly entering the country.

Will this impact on those already rough sleeping? Will this solve many of our issues regarding those sleeping out who have No Recourse to Public Funds? How does it work in practice?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Show your support for Soup Runs

There will not be a discussion on The Spike this week, instead please show your support for 

Soup Run Street Party on the Piazza.

Following on from a recent discussion on The Spike, regarding Westminster City Council planning to ban soup runs, it also seems they are  proposing a by-law to ban rough sleeping and giving to the homeless. 

There will be a street party for anyone wanting to attend, to " celebrate the positive impact of soup runs and groups giving to the homeless in Westminster, with food, music and fun provided!"

They will be meeting at  2pm on 20th March at Westminster Cathedral Piazza.

To find out more and to offer your support check out their facebook site or email

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Are soup runs still necessary in today's society?

This week has seen Westminster City Council state that they intend to ban soup runs within a particular area of their borough (see below for map).  There are arguments from a variety of parties both for and against soup runs.

Soup runs offer a way of accessing food and sometimes clothing for those that are unable or unwilling to engage with other services. Anyone can access the services provided by soup runs. Whilst many of the service users will be rough sleepers, those that are housed also use the services. Some service users will have access to benefits, albeit they are likely to be struggling financially, while others will not be claiming even if they can. It can be a place for socialising as well as support.

The attraction of the soup run is that it is commitment free and anonymous.   For someone new to the streets, or experiencing problems with their benefits, soup runs allow rough sleepers to address a basic need for food. It also means that those dealing with other issues including addiction, phobias and paranoia and who feel they cannot access a building based service, such as a day centre, are provided with stress free interaction.

However, the issues raised against soup runs are that many are organised by those without any experience of people management, crowd control or homeless people. Soup run numbers can be high and there are often very few volunteers to run the service. Many service users have used these services for many years. They can however be very intimidating to those using the service, who may be vulnerable, residents of the areas, and volunteers as well as outreach workers. Which may account for the general dislike of such activities.

But do these soup runs really help rough sleepers maintain a life on the streets or does it allow them to access essentials for their basic survival on the streets? 

For more information


Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Will the results of the latest street counts help to identify important services which should be protected from government funding cuts?

It seems that although some local authorities undertook street counts and others made estimates, the results from last years rough sleeper counts have been worthwhile.
A recent Homeless Link document (Rethink cuts-call to local authorities with high levels of rough sleepers) states that the results show both regional differences in homeless numbers and a connection between the recorded numbers and the current economic performance of a region. It highlights "rough sleeping in rural agricultural areas where the economic downturn has left Central and Eastern Europeans workers destitute when work contracts have run out" also areas such as  "Kensington and Chelsea, which is another authority planning substantial cuts, reported its highest number of rough sleepers since data has been collected". It explains that by using estimates as well as actual counts areas can highlight the need for more government funding in order to deal with homelessness issues.
Homeless Link suggest that cuts to funding would seriously undermine progress already achieved, stating that "A time of budget cuts should be a time to focus resources on the most vulnerable people, not a time to cut away the lifeline services and those enabling them to rebuild their lives.”

Will these new results help to stream line services and assist others to prove that the work they are already doing is vital to the success of ending homelessness?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Can we really end homelessness?

For hundreds of years homelessness has existed all over the world in one form or another. There have been many attempts to prevent or manage it. 

On one hand society says we should have freedom of choice about how we live our lives, but if this goes against the 'norm', we label the choice with a negative stereotype and eye them with suspicion.

From the top down (government to front line staff), everyone is working to end homelessness. Will it be OK to have few homeless people, or will we bring in tougher laws to make it impossible to sleep rough anywhere without being arrested irrespective of the support systems put in place?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Rural Homelessness

A recent article in Inside Housing suggests that homeless acceptance has increased by 25% in rural areas.
Along with ‘sofa surfers’and ‘squatters, rural homelessness is often considered as another category of hidden homelessness. As with many inner city areas, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as mental health issues, are associated with rural homelessness. However, rural services seem to have less funding and presence within the community than many of their urban counterparts. It therefore seems that many rural areas struggle to provide adequate support to the homeless clients.
Homeless Link have produced a document on service provision in rural areas which highlights many of the challenges facedIt also suggests ways services can improve and recommends looking at:

  • identifying specific needs that may differ in rural areas compared to more built up ones
  • how services can be accessed and if they are beneficial to service users and the community
  • whether particular services can work effectively in a rural area.
Having worked as an outreach worker in an urban environment I have limited knowledge of rural homelessness.  I would therefore be very grateful to learn what experience readers have had in rural areas and suggestions to improvthese services?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Homelessness and Health

There are several debates about the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper but what are the real issues affecting their health.

Maintaining general good health on the streets can be difficult, as there is little chance to rest in order to recover from an illness. Health issues can creep up slowly in the form of diabetes (which is often hard to recognise at first by an individual) hep B or C, or HIV. Due to the nature of services provided it may not always be possible to get healthy and nutritional food, so inevitably overall health is affected. 

Accessing medical services should not be too hard as most areas with a recognised homeless population should provide suitable support services. These may include drop in sessions at a day centre, hostel, or in some cases,  a designated surgery for homeless clients.

Managing medication can be tricky, especially if there is nowhere to store it. Many day centres dislike handling or storing medication and GP surgeries are reluctant to provide daily prescriptions. Depending on the medication, it can be very valuable on the streets and can quickly be stolen.

Whilst not all rough sleepers will experience these problems, Outreach Workers need to be aware of these issues and thoroughly asses rough sleepers in order to identify appropriate support services.

Please comment and share your knowledge.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Patronising or Publicising?

Last year we saw something called 'homeless chicenter the fashion arena. Then we began to see more and more organisations fund-raising by organising 'Sleep outs'. It now seems that some people have begun to take time out of their everyday lives to experience life as a 'homeless person'.

On the one hand I realise these people may have good intentions, but are they misguided. Surely this is patronising to those that are forced into this way of life, or is it an honest way of publicising the issue and breaking down stereotypes?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Helping rough sleepers and homeless clients throughout the year.

During the Christmas period, homeless organisations received great and valuable support from the general public. Many received donations of clothing, food, bedding, and money. But will this support continue as the year progresses? I fear that whilst the cold weather and life on the streets continue the levels of support will quickly dwindle. 

  How can we encourage the general public to help rough sleepers and homeless clients throughout the year? What can the public do as part of their every days lives, regardless of the time of year, to help tackle homelessness? 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

How effective has SWEP provision been?

Most of the country has been affected by the cold weather over the last several weeks and as a result many local authorities have set up SWEP (Severe Weather Emergency Protocols) to accommodate rough sleepers.The quality of accommodation can vary dramatically depending on the location. Local authorities have different services available and accommodation can range from purposely set up cold weather shelters, Bed and Breakfast accommodation, crash beds in hostels to a space on the floor of a hostel.
Has this SWEP provision been used by genuine rough sleepers and does it reflect homeless statistics and street count results, or are we finding more rough sleepers than we initially thought?