Jagdeep Singh, DTMH February 2016
The sight of rough sleepers is common to all UK cities and the reasons for why this occurs are varied and many. During the first week of the DTMH Dr Paul Gardner shared some research outlining homelessness and housing as a major social determinent of health, and quoted Helder Camara a 20th century priest from Brazil who stated:
“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint, when I ask why they are poor they call me a communist”
In the week that followed a young man in his 30s, who had been sleeping rough, tragically died in a local hospital in Liverpool. Collectively, many of Liverpool’s homeless advocacy groups carried out a memorial procession to respectfully acknowledge this man’s life. I’ve shared a series of manga sketches done in pencil that have been overlaid with a trusted sharpie and uni-ball fine and needle pens. They depict sites in the City where rough sleepers are seen, like the fabrics of the building fronts they occupy but most often ignored.
We all have our own thresholds for response, action and intervention when meeting or talking to a person who is sleeping rough and asks for help. I have found two really useful telephone numbers to have saved in the mobile phonebook:
‘Streetlink’ 0300 500 0914
‘No second night out’ 0300 123 2041
Anyone can refer, even the client can self- refer. Both groups will organise an assessment for a consenting rough sleeper, either at the scene or at an agreed location in Liverpool. Needless to say, if there are immediate medical concerns then the individual should be informed to access services for the appropriate medical advice. It was promising to hear from the majority of rough sleepers that I have met in these past 8 weeks, that they are able to maintain continuity of health care through a homeless service at Brownlow Health General Practice.
To conclude I’ve listed some of the advocacy groups who have been out and about this past month:
The Liverpool Food Cycle Liverpool Hub who operate from St Cleopas Church in Toxteth and provide a three-course meal every Wednesday evening. They are a very friendly bunch and always happy to see new volunteers!
The Whitechapel Centre has lots going on. They operate a homeless resolution service to prevent rough sleeping, and ensure no new rough sleeper spends a second night out on the street. As well as offering housing and welfare advice to resolve, or prevent, homelessness for new clients who are rough sleeping or are at risk of rough sleeping. They ensure that anyone who is homeless will have somewhere to sleep that night and are offered a long term solution to their homelessness or housing problem.
The University of Liverpool's Help the Homeless society provide support and awareness for groups such as rough sleepers, asylum seekers and refugees. The student led society runs a refugee breakfast kitchen three times a week, delivers sandwiches to the Whitechapel centre daily and runs various raising awareness sessions and fundraisers for the cause.
Liverpool Vegan advocacy group hand out vegan food for rough sleepers, hold vegan educational demos and support other local groups with vegan activism.