- The Tories on Homelessness
- Homelessness Survey: The Results
- The Homeless Period
- Homelessness: What Can We Learn From Finland?
- What Can Students Do to Help the Homeless?
- An Interview with Steve Fletcher from Homeless Charity: ‘Above Us Only Sky?’
- Homelessness: Miracle Messages
- Local Council to Receive £400,000 to Help the Homeless
- What Do Food Banks Do?
- Swaythling Methodist Church Food Bank
- The Megabite Scheme: Helping the Homeless Without Giving Money
- New Pret A Manger on Highfield Campus Helping the Homeless
For the past few weeks Wessex Scene have been circulating a survey among the Southampton student population. We put forward a number of questions to students to find out how they typically respond to rough sleepers, their awareness of local charities and what their thoughts were on the common causes of homelessness.
Respondents were asked which factor they believed homelessness is most commonly caused by. Almost half of students thought redundancy/financial problems were to blame, with 23% opting for drug abuse and 18% for family/relationship problems. However, an FOI request sent to Southampton City Council uncovered that the “most common causes of homelessness amongst those to whom the council accepted a duty” are parents/relatives no longer able to accommodate, friends no longer able to accommodate, relationship breakdown and the end of assured shorthold tenancy.
There is no reference made to drug or alcohol abuse as a principal cause. Nevertheless, we must bear in mind that the likelihood is that those who become homeless have suffered from financial troubles before having to rely upon the friends/relatives that can no longer accommodate them.
How do you tend to respond when passing a rough sleeper on the street? If you usually walk past quickly, then this is a response you share with 60% of Southampton students. Do you tend to avoid eye contact? So do half of your fellow students. Unfortunately, this is an overwhelmingly common response to passing a homeless person on the street, whether it’s out of guilt, disdain or something else altogether.
As detailed in a previous article, with regards to rough sleepers Homed President Stephanie Barker advises students, “to be compassionate, look them in the eye and say hello”. Regardless of whether or not you plan to give money, it is important to treat homeless people as the human beings they are – the last thing we need to do is further ostracise people that are already marginalised. An encouraging 22% of students greet homeless people they come across and almost 30% give them some money.
The issue of giving money to rough sleepers has long been contested. What if the money donated is spent on something harmful like alcohol or drugs? Are we really helping by giving money? You may have noticed the local council’s ‘begging you for lasting change’ poster campaign in partnership with Two Saints and The Society of Saint James, encouraging residents to give their charitable donations to homelessness charities rather than directly to those begging.
Southampton students show positive results in this regard. While 74% of students have given money to a homeless person, a surprisingly high 65% have also donated or bought something for a rough sleeper, usually food, but also sometimes toiletries and clothing. Quite a few respondents have also bought dog food for those on the streets with a dog. At least when buying a particular item for a homeless person, there is far less risk of drugs or alcohol being obtained than if you were to give money.
In keeping with what the council are promoting, almost a third of respondents said they are “highly likely” to donate to or volunteer with a homelessness charity and a further 38% said the possibility of this was “quite likely”. Only 7% of students responded that they were “highly unlikely” to donate to or work with this a charitable organisation of this nature. A number of students have actively gotten involved with tackling homelessness, undertaking sponsored “SleepOuts”, volunteering at shelters and working on the Miracle Messages program. However, a huge 42% of our respondents had not heard of any of the local homelessness charities and services, including Homed, which is actually a union-affiliated student group!
It is clear that Southampton students have a strong awareness of the pressing issue of homelessness, with many of us wanting to actively involve ourselves with tackling the problem. Wessex Scene hopes that our Homelessness Series is helping to educate, inform and raise awareness of the growing number of rough sleepers on our streets.