I glance at the huddled figure in the doorway, the coffee that has been left, the cardboard that acts as a thin barrier between the figure and the ground – a makeshift bed. A plastic bag sits by the figures head – hard to see whether they’re male or female, young or old. Are these all their possessions? What is their life story that now they have a shop door way as their home. I have a familiar feeling of helplessness and walk on by.
Judgements and assumptions stream in when we see someone living on the streets. Each will have their story to tell of their downward trajectory to homelessness and a need for those same things we all need – support, respect, comfort, security and warmth. None of us are removed from the possibility of a downward spiral that ends with no home. What we are told by those who support street homeless is the sooner someone can get off the streets the better – problems become more complex if left, despair sets in quickly.
Richard (not his real name), 25 survived a childhood of abuse and violence which left him with serious mental health issues. His relationship broke down with his mum and after a short while of sleeping on others sofas he found himself on the street – it was because he was directed to further support that he finally was housed and sees a mental health worker once a week and begins to feel he’s getting his life back.
Elim Connect, support street homeless. Although the centre is in Wells they have an outreach worker that operates in Frome, they get to know the situations of those on the street. They help with the hurdles to be housed again. The street can be a lonely and frightening place and street homeless are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
This step back into being housed is harder for some individuals than others. Currently in order to be rehoused a street homeless person has to be ‘clean’ i.e. not using drugs and alcohol to numb them from the reality of their worlds, to break away from their addiction at a time when it cushions them against their pain. Others have such severe mental health problems that they too will find it hard to settle and will continue to roam. Fundamentally street homeless need a complex array of support and advice to build back their lives – the street is not a good place to do this from.
Housing First, in Glastonbury aims to get people off the street first and then support their complex needs.
The Dairy House, run by Elim provides Direct Access Accommodation with 2 short term assessment beds and 4 pre move-on beds to help on the journey to sustainable accommodation.
Although most street homeless people were temporarily housed during lockdown, many will now find themselves back on the streets as hotels open their doors to paying guests. Some have rejected the system and reverted back to the streets, in Frome drugs and alcohol play an important and worrying part in homelessness.
What can we do in Frome? When you see someone homeless over 18 ring StreetLink – they will connect you to Elim Connect in Wells. If the homeless person is in immediate danger or under 18 ring 999.
You could help a homeless or vulnerable person get support sooner rather than later.
- Donate to the food banks
- Join up to the mailing list of Fair Housing for Frome fairhousingforfrome.org.uk for information
- Many homelessness agencies recommend giving something practical to a homeless person rather than money but obviously it’s the individuals choice.
The service can get busy so wherever possible we advise people to use either our website or mobile app, but if you cannot access the internet you can also get in touch via our phone line on 0300 500 0914. Strretlink.org.uk