Rotary tackling homelessness in Bristol

Tony Hughes
President | Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club
5th February 2018
Member roleChamber member

Homelessness is on the increase in Bristol. The visible evidence is an increase of people on the streets; but that is only a fraction of the problem.

The person we see sleeping in a shop doorway or on a park bench hides the bigger picture: there are huge numbers of people staying with friends or ‘sofa-surfing’, who have no place they can call ‘home’. Based in the City Centre the members and supporters of Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club have decided to coordinate their fundraising and voluntary activities by helping to tackle homelessness in Bristol and you can get involved.

The number of homeless people in Bristol has risen by a shocking 128% over the past three years, according to statistics from Homeless Link. It now has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. According to recent Government figures 979 households in this city were accepted as being statutorily homeless in 2016-17 - one in every 197 households. That’s around twice the national average. We are a relatively wealthy city where most of us can sleep easily in the comfort of our own homes. Something is wrong when the tenth largest and third most affluent city in the UK has the second highest number of rough sleepers.

People become homeless for a variety of reasons including relationship breakdowns or being asked to leave by family. The loss of a job can mean that the rent is no longer affordable on housing benefit alone and can quickly lead to the loss of a person’s home. Other factors include alcohol or mental health issues, welfare reform, and domestic abuse.

These all contribute to a challenging mix of life events which can affect people from all walks of life. They could happen to any one of us, we may never know how close others are to becoming homeless. At the same time, council budgets across the country are being squeezed, and further cuts can be expected. The demand for suitable housing is in short supply.

Private rented properties have increased in cost whilst standards of repair have fallen. Reduced social housing stock is increasingly difficult to secure in new build schemes. The housing pathway for those who need Council support has blockages at every stage. We at Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club have recognised the need and have taken on tackling homelessness as one of our signature themes. In the past we have provided funds and volunteers to local charities such as Independent People 1625 and Caring in Bristol particularly during the Christmas periods. Over the last few months we have been involved with a number of projects.

• In October 2017, in conjunction with several other Rotary Clubs in the Bristol area we collected money at the Moscow State Circus. http://www.bristolbreakfastrotary.org.uk/newsletter/homeless/

• In late 2017, we made a donation to help to fit out some of the hostel accommodation in the new Bristol YMCA hostel.

• Over Christmas members have helped with supermarket collections to raise money for Caring at Christmas. We have two further fundraising events arranged for later this year

• On 24th May 2018 we are holding our 12th Annual Charity Golf Day.

This year it will be raising monies for Crisis Centre Ministries and other Rotary charities; Crisis Centre Ministries has been working in Bristol for over 30 years, dedicated to helping those with life disrupting problems, such as homelessness and addiction, to enjoy a healthy independent life. For further details contact Mary Whittington on marywinwhitt@googlemail.com

• On 10th June 2018 we will be holding our 17th Annual Dragon Boat Festival and will be raising monies for Caring in Bristol to support their new hostel project at the Friend’s Meetinghouse, which will provide an extra 24 beds during this year. For further details on how to get involved see https://www.bristolrotarydragons.org/

In the meantime, if you have energy and enthusiasm and you or your business would like to get involved in tackling homelessness in Bristol do get in touch at info@bristolbreakfastrotary.org.uk

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