Homelessness Awareness Week 2017

I often wonder if the sheer volume of special ‘days’ in the calendar are necessary (World Octopus Day anyone?) Similarly, the number of awareness weeks and months is growing, as the internet makes it easier and easier to share information and promote the latest cause.

So why homeless awareness week? Well, firstly you need to ask Exeter City Council – it’s their idea!

What I can answer is why we at CHA are supporting it. On an average week, we support around 50 individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Guess how many of these 50 people are rough sleepers? 45? 30? Well, it’s nearer to 8.

That’s one reason we want to raise everyone’s awareness of homelessness; who it affects and what you can do to help. Rough sleeping causes a great deal of debate, and whilst it is the most damaging form of homelessness, it only represents the (very visible) tip of the iceberg. Those of us who work every day to chip away at the iceberg know that there are reasons to be positive, reasons to be hopeful and reasons to be proud of our communities. Want a simple example? Well, tonight (and every night of the year) there are an army of volunteers who open their homes to young people who are homeless. Whilst these volunteers are very special to us, they are ordinary Devonians who have a spare room, some compassion and a desire to help those less fortunate.

Another way to make homelessness more ‘relatable’ is to consider how near/far any of us from being homeless ourselves. Think about it - if you lost your job, suffered a bereavement or some trauma, ill health or all of the above; how many steps might you be away from having nothing and no-one?

This statement isn’t intended to provoke or cause distress; but rather it normalizes something (homelessness) which is so often seen as anything but. The increasing role of food banks in society shows us that so many families are struggling to make ends meet, and are close than ever to being at risk of homelessness.

Any good news?

Well, thankfully yes! Homeless awareness week isn’t intended to make everyone feel glum, or to be lectured on how they ‘should’ think or feel. What we hope to do is share some of the great activity happening right now to prevent homelessness in Exeter, address a few ‘long in the tooth’ myths and share a few individual stories. Not too painful, right?

Keep an eye out in Exeter and also via Facebook and Twitter all week starting 9th October.