So why the picture?… Read on…
Probably for most of us, the only time we encounter people without a home may be when we walk around York or another city and see someone tucked up in a sleeping bag, huddled in an empty shop doorway or in an underpass. Some may be just sleeping or waiting for the day to pass; others may use the opportunity to ask for money or a coffee or a sandwich.
It is possibly easy for us to assume that someone who sleeps rough on the streets represents the whole problem of being homeless. It is far more complicated than that.
Large numbers of people may not have a home but are able to stay with friends or family for short periods of time. They may be referred to as ‘sofa surfers’. Their situation is complex and after a longer period of time the opportunities to stay with others can diminish, maybe resulting in them having to sleep rough on the streets.
A number of people are placed in emergency B&B accommodation. This can persist for several months until a housing solution is found. This solution may be a long distance from the person’s original home.
So why a photo of some boys posing cheekily in front of the camera? A few years ago I worked in a slum in India on a community project to help refurbish a health clinic, run by the locals in the slum for those living in the slum. You may be able to just see a pot of paint one of the lads is holding. He was proud to have been part of the project to paint the new facility.
The reason I share this photo, is to illustrate the topic of homelessness is far more complex and global than we often consider.
For many living in slums around the world, they have a temporary shelter, but this can be removed without any recourse. The conditions in the slum were appalling; open sewers, no easy access to clean water and chronic overcrowding.
Some who live in slums, not surprisingly, desire to find somewhere better to live. When they move to a better area or country, they become migrants. The whole issue of economic migrants is a very political topic, particularly depending on how migrants enter another country.
Over recent years, we have seen a huge displacement of people through war (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, DR Congo etc.), through natural disaster (Afghanistan, India, sub-Sahara Africa etc.), or persecution (North Korea, India etc.). These displaced people are referred to as refugees.
There are estimated to be 80m displaced persons globally (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).
Human trafficking of persons can be for a host of different reasons: sex trafficking, domestic servitude, forced labour, and organ harvesting. People are moved against their will. They are often hidden and have no rights until they are discovered and given support.
The accurate number of trafficked persons is hard to quantify but could be 21m (Wikipedia).
Even when we take the global situation down to a local level in York, we are still faced with many complexities. People arrive at being without a home for a wide variety of reasons including; debt, unemployment, relationship breakdown, bereavement, rent arrears, eviction, physical health issues, mental health issues, gambling addiction, substance misuse, and many others.
So where does Restore York fit into this global solution? Well, I like the quote from Mother Teresa: “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you”. At Restore York, we currently provide a safe and loving home for up to 35 people at any one time. We accept referrals through the City of York Council Single Access Point and provide supported housing for those most in need in York.
Over ten years, we have helped over 200 people. The global impact may be relatively small, but the impact to those 200+ people has been massive. Lives have been transformed and renewed. Helping make a difference to someone else is the difference that makes change possible globally.