East Croydon Cool talks…Homelessness

East Croydon Cool talks… is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts.

This month we spoke to Jasmine Jappy, the Community and Challenge Events Fundraising Officer at Evolve to learn a little more about homelessness and why it is an issue in Croydon.

1) Why is homelessness on the increase in the UK?
There is a severe lack of social housing within the UK and with less support being given to those currently housed and less housing available for those needing homes, the increase of those rough sleeping is inevitably rising. There has also been a marked increase in the amount of the population suffering from mental health problems living on the street which – without the correct support – is likely to make the steps for homeless people to get off the street, even harder to obtain. This often prolongs the time homeless people are spending on the streets which again increases the day to day volume of homeless people. Someone with severe mental health issues will find it very hard to gain the confidence to speak to those who may be able to support them gain access to social housing and support for their mental health due to a lack of confidence and other hindering issues.

2) Why is it such a big issue in Croydon?
Croydon is the 7th worst borough for rough sleeping. This is partly because of the immigration office being in Croydon and partly because it is such a large borough. It’s also because of the complexity of the people who are rough sleeping and because of the lack of affordable move-on accommodation in the borough. This means supported accommodation and hostels are full up, and without people having somewhere to move on to, we can’t get more people in to them, so they spend longer on the street.

3) Are there different types of homelessness?
There are several different types of homelessness. Firstly, there are chronic rough sleepers; those that have been sleeping on the streets for a long period of time. Secondly, there are transitional homeless people who stay in a shelter for a short amount of time and then gain their own living accommodation – often they have become homeless due to trauma. This tends to be the most common. Thirdly, there are episodic homeless people, who go in and out of being homeless due to several challenges they may face throughout their lives. Finally, there are unseen homeless people – for example those living on friends or family members sofa’s, not having their own place to call home, but being housed in the short term.

4) How do people become homeless?
People can become homeless for a whole host of different reasons. The most frequently heard of factor is relationship/family breakdown, as well as factors such as trauma, debt, poor physical/mental health and also a lack of qualifications making it harder for people to gain paid employment. There can be a number of different factors resulting in one person becoming homeless, which often makes getting that person back into independent living, even harder.

5) How does Evolve seek to address the issue?
On a day to day basis, Evolve house 700 homeless people and encourage them to engage with programmes put in place to assist them through their journey from homelessness, to independent living. These programmes include; a Health + Wellbeing programme, which mostly consists of an in-house counselling service and other complementary therapies, a Work + Learning programme which seeks to gain customers access to training, qualifications, work placements and also CV/IT support as well as other programmes/workshops that support customers in other areas of their lives.

6) Should people give food/money to help?
Yes – to an established charity that works with those resources effectively. Evolve has a success rate of 78% of customers that come to us and move on and live happily and independently. Every penny we receive goes towards our work. Our current Hurt to Homeless fundraising campaign focuses on breaking the cycle of trauma through our in-house counselling programme. We need to raise £110,000 to continue our counselling services and help more homeless people rebuild their lives.

7) What can others do to help?
1. Fundraise to support a charity that is set up to work with homeless people and use your fundraising most effectively.
2. Even better, ask your corporation if they support a charity and nominate a homeless charity. .
3. Raise awareness of the issues faced and the work organisations are doing to try and combat them as well as the impact those in the wider community can do to support.
4. Take part in a challenge event for a charity supporting the homeless to do both 1 and 2 – raise money and also raise awareness!
5. Volunteer

8) What is the biggest misconception about homelessness?
The biggest misconception about homelessness in my opinion, is that all homeless people are drug and alcohol users and not interested in work. In fact, the issue is much more complex than that. More often than not it is traumatic events and lack of a good support network that has resulted in that person ending up on the streets and a complete solution is needed to help people rebuild their lives.

9) How is Evolve’s work different to other, better known homelessness charities?
Evolve aims to provide an entire 360 degree solution to homelessness. They provide housing as a basis yes, but also provide so much more than that to those they support. They offer all residents living within their services, access to the Health + Wellbeing and the Work + Learning programmes and also provide each person with a key worker who they meet with on a weekly basis to discuss the past week, how they are feeling and talk through any struggles they may have faced that past week. It’s because of this all encompassing approach that Evolve are able to celebrate a 78% positive move on rate of customers moving into services from the streets, and later going on to live independent lives.

10) Where can people learn more about the work Evolve are doing?
In June, Evolve published a report on the cycle of trauma. Pulling together personal accounts as well as statistics and data, this report gives insight as to how people can help Evolve in their mission to break the cycle of homelessness.

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