A Time for Giving
12 months ago, we wrote a Christmas blog about what a tumultuous, challenging, and difficult year 2020 had been. As we approached last Christmas, we were looking forward to the new year and better times ahead. We had expected, hoped, things to be hugely different 12 months later and to a great extent they are, we have the vaccine, we have spent more of the year in freedom rather than in lockdown, infections and deaths are down and our lives have, for the most part, returned to a sense of normality. Yes, we are now facing the Omicron threat, but with the booster vaccination programme in full swing, we are in a good position to withstand a new wave of infection. This year we can look forward to the Christmas festivities but, as last year, we are also taking the time to think about those less fortunate than ourselves.
If you are a regular customer of CPB UK, or reader of our blog, you will know that for the past few years, CPB has supported a range of charities at Christmas. In 2021 we have decided to focus once again on Help and Hope for the Homeless as our chosen charity. CPB won’t be sending Christmas cards or gifts to clients, instead we will donate our Christmas budget to helping rough sleepers.
Help and Hope for the Homeless is a voluntary organisation which helps rough sleepers in the West End and Hertfordshire. Run by Shoshana and Lloyd Gilmore, Help and Hope for the Homeless supplies food, clothes, and other essential items to those that desperately need support. Volunteers go out every week of the year in all weathers to offer support to some of the most vulnerable in society.
Help & Hope for the Homeless aims to help those marginalised by society. Providing year-round care is central to the organisation’s success at helping the homeless, as they can build up a rapport with rough sleepers, leading to a level of trust and the ability to help on a more personalised level. Many organisations help over Christmas time, but Help & Hope for the Homeless volunteers go out weekly, whatever the weather.
As a voluntarily run and funded organisation, Help and Hope is always looking for volunteers to join its incredible team to donate their time, skills, and passion to help change homeless peoples’ lives. So, this year, CPB isn’t just donating funds but also time, joining Shoshana and Lloyd on the streets of London to witness, first-hand, their valuable work. A small team of CPB volunteers headed up to London to help deliver clothing, food, and essential personal hygiene items to some of the capital’s rough sleepers. We spent time talking to some of the rough sleepers, understanding how they became homeless, what help they are receiving and what more they need. It was a sobering and eye-opening experience, which put our own lives and opportunities into perspective. The nights we volunteered were bitterly cold and we met many people that live solely on the streets, not able, or not choosing, to access shelters for a variety of reasons. The people we met were all polite, positive, and grateful for the food, clothing and other items Help and Hope for the Homeless could supply.
The Cost of Homelessness
The Westminster government is spending £750m tackling homelessness and rough sleeping this year. The Scottish government has vowed to spend £12m to do the same thing and Wales has set aside £5m. But each figure represents an outlay that shouldn’t exist. Preventing people from falling into homelessness in the first place is not only the moral thing to do, it makes financial sense too.
Homelessness has a huge economic cost. It’s not simply a case of covering food, shelter, and health. People who are homeless often have an impact on other services and that carries an inherent cost. For example, street homelessness can have a disastrous effect on health and many people on the streets do not have access to a GP. As a result, they are more likely to use hospital A&E departments, which can be more expensive than undergoing preventative treatment. It’s a similar story with policing and the criminal justice system. Rough sleepers are more likely to interact with the police, for example, whether they are moved on from a doorway, involved in criminality or the victims of crime themselves. This carries a cost, as does failing to rehabilitate prisoners released back into homelessness. Furthermore, adults who are homeless and unable to work are not able to contribute to society through taxes.
Rough sleeping also has a human cost. The distress of lacking a settled home can cause or intensify social isolation, create barriers to education, training and paid work and undermine mental and physical health. When homelessness becomes prolonged, or is repeatedly experienced, there are further deteriorations in health and well-being.
What Causes Homelessness?
People become homeless for lots of different reasons. There are social causes of homelessness, such as a lack of affordable housing, poverty and unemployment, and life events which cause individuals to become homeless.
People can become homeless when they leave prison, care, or the army with no home to go to. Many homeless women have escaped a violent relationship. Many people become homeless because they can no longer afford the rent.
For many, life events like a relationship breaking down, losing a job, mental or physical health problems, or substance misuse can be the trigger. Being homeless can, in turn, make many of these problems even harder to resolve.
COVID-19 has had significant impact on the numbers of rough sleepers. Many people who were already living with financial pressures have been pushed over the brink into homelessness because of the pandemic resulting in them losing their jobs and ultimately their homes.
Homelessness is Devastating, Dangerous and Isolating
People sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence.
More than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless.
Homeless people are over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.
On average, homeless people die at just 44 years old
The life of a rough sleeper or a homeless person is one you might find hard to imagine. Learning about the work carried out by Help and Hope has been sobering and emotive. It has made CPB sit up and think, to reassess its priorities both as a business and on a personal level. CPB is committing its Christmas cheer to fund the provision of a little extra help and hope to those that need it, in what is sure to be a harsh winter on the streets.
Once again, this Christmas, as well as thinking of others less fortunate, please take care, be safe and be healthy.