February 2021  I  St. Clare's Oxford

BBC YOUNG REPORTERS: HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS

An article by Elizabete Jeremejeva, Immi Young and Shaneh Clark

Homelessness on a global scale

Homelessness globally can mean different things to homelessness in the UK, or other developed countries. When we picture homelessness in the UK, we picture people sitting in the streets, a little cup for money from passers-by, yet worldwide the issue of shelter and housing takes a slightly different form. Homelessness as a global issue is often masked by increased levels of poverty and the formation of slum towns. Rather than living on the streets, often large communities of make-shift shelters develop, such as the favellas of Rio.

The UN estimates, 100 million have no housing at all, and that 1.6 billion (around 20% of the global population) live in inadequate housing.

 

Sadly, it is estimated that this problem will only increase. As urbanisation continues at a rapid rate across the developing world more people will be driven to living in slums, and, coupled with the climate crisis reducing habitable land, more and more people are likely to be driven to living in inadequate shelter as humanity is pushed closer together. Other causes that need addressing also include domestic violence, racial inequality, unemployment and conflict.

 

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. Finland is one of the only countries where homelessness is declining, falling by 35% across the country and is almost eradicated in Helsinki. The global community can learn a lot from their actions. First, they aimed at providing long term solutions rather than quick fixes. By providing permanent homes, they ensure that the homeless people can be reintegrated into society, rather than isolated, creating a support system to prevent people needing to return to the streets. Critically, Helsinki’s Housing First initiative also aimed to prevent homelessness in the first place by helping people at risk of eviction.  

 

As is evident, it is not a simple problem as there are many causes of global homelessness, meaning there is no one perfect solution, and it will take a lot of time, effort and support to completely eradicate homelessness. But through the work of countless organisations, including Share&Care, we hold onto the hope that one day, homelessness will be a memory.

Homelessness on a local scale

We are part of the problem. 280,000. 280,000 vulnerable people in England were without a home as of December 2019. Almost three times greater than that of both Scotland and Wales, this number has only increased since then. Of which 50% were children, a total of 140,000 children fending for themselves out on the cold concrete roads. In England alone, one in every two hundred people are without a home. This gives rise to the question: what does it mean to be homeless? A complex and sensitive subject to many, homelessness comes in many forms. This doesn’t only mean living on the street, one could be without a permanent address. The “hidden homeless” may also reside to ‘sofa surfing’, living in disused buildings, night shelters or temporary accommodations. We can volunteer, action can be taken, but what is the reason behind so many lives still finding themselves on the streets?

 

According to Crisis UK, there are both social causes, such as poverty and unemployment, and distressing life events, such as health-related problems or relationship breakdown, which may lead to one falling homeless. Women are more likely to experience mental and physical trauma and those homeless are even more vulnerable. One in four were found to have been sexually assaulted over the course of one year and almost 14% of rough sleepers were women in 2017. Sanitary products, a basic necessity for all women, aren’t free, adding to the already incredible discomfort homeless women already experience day to day. Unfortunately, men are less likely to be re-employed than women. Consequently, this increases the risk of men falling down the spiral of being unable to pay their rent and bills, resulting in debt and the loss of their home, seeking to the streets for shelter. An atrocious statistic by Generation Homeless stated that last year every eight minutes a child loses their home. Surviving on the street at such vulnerable ages increases a child’s risk of being exposed to human trafficking. Those who have been lucky enough to escape still end up becoming homeless.

 

The current global pandemic has proven a new array of challenges and difficulties. A report by Shelter has shown that 115,000 more are trapped in terrible, temporary housing. Not only are they isolated and alone, the presence of “needles and glass” make it impossible to feel safe in such a dangerous and dirty environment. Although the government funds local city councils with millions of pounds to tackle this global issue, a more economically beneficial and sustainable approach can be and should be taken. Providing aid and support to those at risk of becoming homeless should be the number one priority. Comparing a possible cost of £20,128 a year for a single person sleeping on the street, an astonishing £1,426 is all that could be spent in a successful intervention. Putting this into perspective, the average cost of a student going to a private British school is £11,565 per year.

 

An important factor contributing towards the eradication of homelessness is the importance of education. The education of individuals and communities as a whole is the key towards bestowing hope in the hopeless. Nearly all cases of homelessness are preventable. There is hope. Providing aid and assistance to those who need it most is both beneficial to those around us and thus our communities. We are part of the solution.

It starts with you, it ends with us

Share&Care is not only some sort of CAS service, it is so much more than that. We are community. Every single member of Share&Care believes that we can help our world in any possible way. We concentrate on helping homeless people. We raise money and buy different items that we later give to homeless people. It all started with a simple CAS project.

 

It all started when a small group of people thought about an idea that will help stop wasting food. They decided to go on a trip and give away food that was left from our school's cafe. So, the next weekend they packed the stuff in boxes, borrowed a trolley from Tesco and drove around the city centre with it, talked to the homeless and let them choose what they liked. They got rid of the leftover snacks pretty fast and enjoyed getting to know the homeless and helping them through their hard time so later set up a donation box in the schools' cafe for people to spend their own goods and later distributed them to the homeless. Soon it became a CAS service and now it is a big group of students that think of ideas that can help prevent homelessness in Oxford.

 

Now Share&Care finds different ways of how to raise money and buy useful items for people in need. On Sundays we collect the donations and go around Oxford in search of people that need help. We let them pick what they need and usually have a chat with them. This year they are struggling more than ever because of the pandemic. Less people donate items because more people are afraid to go out of their houses. These people are on really big risk because some of them don't even have houses to live in. Share&Care wants to help them and give them things that they need: food, blankets, hygiene stuff and other things. We believe that everyone can help even not with donations but just by talking to them and including them as a key part of our society or giving them jobs that they can get paid for. For more information about how to get involved check the Share&Care website www.shareandcare-oxford.org.