Sleepout 2016

Hi guys. The President of our society, Steph, took part in The Society of St James’ Sleepout. This is her experience of it:

This was my third time attending SSJ’s Sleepout, so for the few weeks before I felt like a seasoned professional. In fact, until one week before, I felt great about it. Then the weather started to turn and I was genuinely worried. I started to dread the SleepOut, thinking that it was going to be a bitterly cold and a long night. It made me think about those who do not have a choice, and what it must be like for someone when they are staying with a friend who wants them out soon, what are they supposed to do? What would they have to do to stay warm? What would I be willing to do?

So, the night came and it was a great evening full of great food and music, with only the slightest undertone of ‘oh dear, what are we in for tonight?’ When it came time for sleeping, everyone seemed to exchange nervous glances at one another. One guy was being interviewed about how he prepared, a group of us listened intently—he had a bed of leaves and cardboard boxes before a small blanket, then his sleeping bag and one more on top. He finished off with a plan to listen to ACDC all night. We laughed and joked about how awful it was going to be. And then it was.

The wind kept cutting into any exposed part of my sleeping bag, I felt vulnerable despite knowing people were around, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to put both earphones in, so I listened to all the Friday night sounds. I worried that my sanitary pad would leak and how cold it would be trying to get up and out to go to the bathroom. I wondered what women do when they are sleeping rough on their periods. How do they manage? I had it for one night and was extremely uncomfortable. I can’t imagine.

I didn’t sleep at all and sat with friend most of the night. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company, breaking up the time with trips to get free coffee and hot water. By about 4:30, I started to feel a bit delirious, tripping over my words and thoughts from pure exhaustion. It made me wonder what it would do to someone’s mental health if they had even a few nights of sleeping rough. What kind of impact would that have on a developing brain, like so many of the young people who face homelessness? 

By 5:00, time was crawling by, I wanted so badly to go home. I felt grateful to have a home. Once we had our McDonalds breakfast, we were free to go and the SleepOut had officially finished. It was again, a very humbling experience. It made me want to be more involved and work with local charities. Despite how awful it can be, I will probably be back to do it again next year. I think it’s important to push ourselves and attempt to take other people’s perspectives. Try to keep our compassion.

 

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Our First Meeting

Welcome, or welcome back, to the Homed blog! This is set up by Homed to tell you events, news and any of our member’s experiences of homelessness, or what they have done with the homeless community. Feel free to message or email any of our members if you have something to contribute!

We hope you had a lovely summer holiday. After such a university-free time, it’s now that time of year again. That’s right – it’s time for our first talk and AGM.

All are welcome!

When? – Monday 17th October. 6-8pm.

Where? – 58/1045

The talk is: “Solving Homelessness: Who’s Responsible – Society or the Individual?” Come and hear from Dr Nick Maguire, a clinical psychologist and researcher here at the University, who has been working with those experiencing homelessness for over 15 years. Alongside him is Stephanie Barker, who is a PhD student researching peer-support and homelessness and our own President of Homed. Here will be a discussion on our title, and an insight to the lives of those who are homeless.

We will also be hearing from Andrew Simpson, from the YMCA, who will be telling us about all the volunteering opportunities they have.

Other news is that we have space on our committee! So if you are interested in joining us please do not hesitate to talk to us about it after the talk at the meeting. In the meantime, if you are interested, please send a short email stating why you would like to join and which position (if any) you would like to go for. We need a Secretary, Publicity Officer and Volunteer Co-ordinator.

We look forward to seeing you at our meeting and if you haven’t already, feel free to follow us on twitter: @HOMEDsoton and join our facebook group here!

 

 

 

Women and Homelessness

So our meeting, which discussed women and homelessness, happened today.

It was awesome.

Although it’s true that I’m slightly biased, it really shed light on the many issues that homeless women have. The thing is… when someone says “homeless”, they picture a man. But in reality, there are lots of women who are. This might not necessarily mean out on the streets: this may be sofa-surfing, or sleeping in someone else’s bed just to get out of the cold.  However the harsh reality is this: the recorded amount of women in England who use homeless services are 26%. Despite this figure, experts believe there are many more women out there who are homeless. The statistic does not give us the full picture. This is due to many reasons – ranging from how some women are sex workers and have pimps “looking after them”, to women who sleep in their male friends beds in order to be indoors.

In order to spread awareness and information about this, Homed had three speakers come in to discuss their experiences with homeless women. These were; Megan (an expert by her own experiences on the street), Pamela (a Consultant Nurse on Homelessness and Health Inequalities at Solent NHS) and Sam (from the Society of St James’). Each had a unique perspective on women and homelessness.

One topic that was discussed by all speakers was the catch 22 situation of being a woman and homeless. One question to Megan was whether she felt more vulnerable being a homeless woman, than the homeless men did? Her answer was clear – yes and no. Being a woman meant that more people stopped to help and talk to her, than they did to her male friends. Moreover, if Megan approached them asking for money, they normally stopped to listen, and donated more. However, she did feel more vulnerable (especially at night) which was frightening for her. She had, on at least one occasion, been raped.

One cannot underestimate the effect periods have on homeless women. It can make women feel dirtier than men. For all women, periods can cause great amounts of pain, and this can be heightened when homeless. Women do not have the comfort of being curled up at home. Periods are also an extra cost and burden for women. It is not easy for them.

The stigma of being homeless is always awful. Megan recounted an experience when even the Police turned their noses up at her. At the time, she was living on the street as a sex-worker. After being raped and assaulted by her attacker, she flagged down a passing car and told them that she had been raped, and wanted to report it. The policeman looked her up and down. “It’s not rape,” he said, “more like theft.”

Megan was outraged. Of course it was still rape – she had not consented, and had been attacked! She told the policeman this. He shrugged. “You can report it if you want. But don’t expect anything. You could be arrested you know, for being on the streets.” And he drove away.

This attitude people have to women is a problem. For various reasons, some homeless women take to jobs such as being sex-workers. This is in order to get by. Whatever profession they may undertake, there is a reason to them doing so: they should not be judged. Pamela discussed how this is a crucial thing when she talks to her patients. She must ask the unasked, and not judge the answers. It was all part of the job. Yet Pamela asked the question: how can anyone who hasn’t been in that person’s position judge? None of us know what we would do in that situation.

In my opinion, it is in no-one’s place to judge, but instead to help. And this is what is uplifting. Despite Megan’s story, she was here today to spread awareness for homeless women. She now, is in a happy relationship with 4 children (and one on the way!) with a bright future ahead of her. She now works to help the homeless. Being in the position she is in, she can say that it was those non-judgemental people that really inspired her to come off the streets. The most memorable help she had was a team who used to come and give her a hot chocolate, a packet of crisps, and a mars bar everyday. This meant a lot to her – and soon, she was able to think clearly and pick herself up. I looked at her today, and I saw a determined woman who knew exactly how to help.

If you have any more questions, want more information, or want to help the homelessness, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can do this by private messaging us on Facebook (click this link here) or emailing us: al11g14@soton.ac.uk. You can also look into volunteering with The Society of St James’ which helps support homeless people across Hampshire. Here is their site.

Follow Homed on Facebook, Twitter, and on this blog to hear about all the upcoming events and news. Hope to see you soon 🙂

Talk and AGM

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to let you know about the next event and AGM that is coming up soon. It’s on Monday 25th April and at 6-8pm in Building 35, Room 1005.

Our talk is focusing on the issues that women experience when facing homelessness, and we have a few key speakers who are coming to share their stories and knowledge with us.

These include:

  • Megan, an expert by experience from Pathways in London.
  • Pamela Campbell, a Consultant Nurse on Homelessness and Health Inequalities at Solent NHS
  • Sam Bax, from the Society of St James’ fundraising team.

This will give us an insight into their experiences and help spread awareness of the many issues. Our AGM will also be happening after, so feel free to stay and get involved!

Click here to go instantly to our facebook event!

Our meeting will also be announcing the winner of guess the Skeleton’s name competition – so come along just to see if you won the £20 high street voucher!

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Did you take a guess at the skeleton’s name? Come and find out if you were the lucky winner!

 

Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂

 

 

Bag Drop: All you Need to Know

Hi all,

Just a quick little post to let you know about Homed’s BAG DROP.

The society of St James’ helps around 2,500 people who struggle with homelessness a year. Despite their aid, homelessness still remains a big problem in Southampton.

So Homed are calling out to you to help. Not to donate spare change and give money, but actually donate any spare or old items that you have.

The Bag Drop will be held between the 14th and 18th March. Bright red bins will be in SUSU, where upon you can drop off a bag – or individual items – to help vulnerable, homeless people.

To give you an idea of what you can donate, here is a list:

 

  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Shampoo
  • Hat, scarf and gloves
  • Socks or underwear
  • Baby wipes
  • Tissues
  • Canned food/soup or any other non-perishable food
  • Sanitary products
  • Towel/ Flannel
  • Eye mask/ Ear Plugs
  • Pet Food

So if you have a spare pair of gloves that you don’t need, or a tin of soup at the back of your cupboard, it would be absolutely amazing if you could make a bag of goods and drop them off at SUSU. Individual items would also be fantastic. It’d be great to make a difference for these vulnerable people!

Shoebox collection: make a difference

So tomorrow is the last day of the shoebox collection and we would like to thank those who have donated, and encourage those who haven’t to donate some unwanted items into the shoebox.

Many of us take Christmas for granted. Spending the cold winter wrapped up warm with family, eating LOTS of food and getting presents is a yearly tradition. However, for people who are homeless, Christmas can be a very lonely time. Many people are sleeping out in the rough; at one of the coldest times of year it is even harder for those spending it alone.

We want to spread a very little bit of joy this Christmas for those who are homeless. So Homed, in conjunction with SUSU, have a shoebox collection.

Noooooooooo. It doesn’t mean that you have to make a whole shoebox (especially at last minute)! So don’t worry!!!! However, we would really appreciate any unwanted items you may have. It’d be really great if you have something old, or lying back in the food cupboard, that you think – I don’t mind dropping that off.

It could make someone’s Christmas that little bit easier.

When? All day tomorrow!

Where? On the redbrick at Campus. The red bins are easily visible (especially with our Homed banner!) and you can place any of your items in them.

What? Here’s a few ideas;

Toiletries! – Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, wet wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, flannels, hairbrushes, etc.

Treat items – chocolates, sachets of drinks, biscuits, books, magazines.

Other – toilet rolls, eye masks, small torches, batteries, hats, gloves, socks, scarves!

However, don’t bring; alcohol, lottery tickets, cash, tobacco, perishable food items.

Please come and donate any unwanted items. You could really make a difference, and we’d love to see you there. 🙂

SleepOut 2015 – Raising Money for an Excellent Cause

I took part in the SleepOut 2015 to raise awareness and money for homelessness in Southampton. Sleeping outside on the hard ground was uncomfortable and the November weather was not ideal: it was cold, it rained and it was windy. Doing the sleep out wasn’t to replicate homelessness, but it did give me a tiny insight into what homeless people experience and it made me so grateful for what I have! As it was an organised sleep out we had people up all night for safety; I reckon if I was alone I would have felt extremely vulnerable and scared.

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Getting ready to brave the night.

I could do the sleep out in the knowledge it was just for one night; I made sure I changed my sheets to come back to a nice fresh warm bed. I also had the liberty to pick out warm clothes from my wardrobe. As soon as I got home this morning I got into a hot shower – after sleeping outside or just one night you feel pretty dirty. Although I could complain that after not the best night’s sleep in the world I had to freshen up and cycle to a full day of uni, it made me appreciate the opportunity I have through education to develop myself, to occupy myself and ultimately make a positive difference with my life. As I headed home this morning I cycled past a few homeless people, I wonder what was in store for them today? How long they had been sleeping rough for? What was it that brought them to that position? I know it’s often a complex set of circumstances that result in people sleeping rough, and therefore there is no simple solution, but Homed seek to raise awareness, reduce stigma and raise money for charities such as Society of St James (who we did the sleep out with) who make a huge difference providing accommodation and opportunity for homeless people as well as support for a number of the underlying issues. If you want to donate please follow the link any amount of money can make a difference!

https://www.justgiving.com/Homed-Sleepout/

One Experience…

I find it difficult to see homeless people. I suppose it stems from knowing that, in comparison, anyone with a home is so lucky but also that you can never help them out as much as one would like. In Portswood there are several homeless people, more this year than last and so it had been playing on my mind a lot. I wanted to know what the best thing I could do to help them was. I have given them food/drinks, bought them some food for their dogs but I was always unsure of the best way I could help. I had asked ex-homeless people and psychiatrists what they thought is best, I received a variety of interesting answers.

After attending the homed talk I was reminded of all I had thought but also they stressed the importance of befriending them. Taking time to talk/sit with whoever it is and check up on them, show that one cares. Spurred on by this message I decided this time to ask the homeless man who stays near where I live what he wanted. I realised that I usually would get him ‘something’ but don’t often ask him. After getting him and myself some chips and a drink I stayed and ate with him. We had a nice conversation. He talked about the abundance/lack of food and about the mixed generosity and abuse he receives from the public. I witness some of this first hand as I sat with him: a car drove passed and chucked an egg at us.

The man mentioned that the thing he really needs is warm clothes with winter fast approaching. I would be interested to see if we could organise a donation of warm clothes (coat/scarf/hat/glove) and give out with the street homeless prevention team. Who is with me?!

After talking to this man I questioned the hostels no dogs rule (imposed by the council). It strikes me as counter intuitive that a homeless person is asked to abandon their last, truly loyal friend in exchange for shelter. No wonder some would prefer to sleep rough sometimes.

I would like to urge all students/people reading this to reach out, speak to them, make friends, check up on them and maybe we can help make them see that they are valued; we care.

Hello!

Hello and welcome to our Homed blog!

Unfortunately, there is a great stigma surrounding the homeless. Many do not think of the homeless as people – and our aim is to reduce this stigma and, instead, humanise them. As a result we have set up this blog – with a primary aim to share your stories and interactions with them.

We will also be posting on here about all our events, volunteering opportunities and news concerning our society!

Follow us and feel free to comment and get involved with everything that we are doing!
We look forward to posting and keeping you updated.