Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week already making an impact
This week marks Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week and already, one story has captured the imagination of the city of Bristol.
Homelessness in Bristol is a growing problem. Within the homeless population, a large number are considered to have multiple needs. This means that they suffer from additional issues such as mental health illness, addiction, offending behaviour and trauma. Many need support services to help them out of their plight and give them the opportunity to live fulfilling lives.
As charities and homelessness campaigners work hard to highlight the rising number of people sleeping rough in Bristol, and the increasing number of people at risk of homelessness, one story has helped create a huge amount of publicity.
What happens when you try to stop homeless people seeking refuge in a Bristol shopping centre space
Earlier this week, Bristol Post broke the story that managers at The Galleries shopping centre in the heart of Bristol Shopping Quarter had installed bollards to prevent homeless people from sleeping rough in shop doorways.
The action was unsurprisingly greeted with a mixture of disbelief and disgust by many people. Bristol Post reported:
University student Jamie Rogan, 19, said: “I think it’s horrible, it’s really inhumane. They are struggling enough as it is and what is it to anyone else if they pitch up in that space to sleep overnight – it’s not even like it’s a doorway or anything.”
Friend Adam Hayes, 20, added: “I agree. I actually think it’s a pretty disgusting thing to do.”
Shopper Helen Adams, 37, from Henleaze, said: “It seems unnecessary. I could understand if it was right in a shop doorway or something, you can see why a business might not want that, but this is a space between two shops, I can’t see the harm.”
Neville Peters, who moved to Bristol from Manchester this week, said: “”[Homelessness in Bristol is] worse than Manchester. I truly was surprised that the issue of homeless people here hits you on arrival, visibly
Then something incredible happened. Under pressure from the media, The Galleries removed the bollards and have stated that they are ‘considering other options’ to stop homeless people in Bristol sleeping rough in their doorways.
This morning, one IF Group member saw that the bollards were removed and we Tweeted an image showing the power of public opinion. The tweet was shared from all corners of Bristol society, from homelessness campaigners, to the general public to the Mayor of Bristol.
— IF_Group (@IFGroupBristol) February 24, 2016
Yet, the story had captured the imagination of the public. One person went further, sprucing up the space to make it welcoming and homely for just £3.
That sparked the local BBC news team into action, within hours, it was headlining the morning news in Bristol and the West Country:
It just goes to show that raising awareness, tackling stigma and listening to the general public can go a long way when it comes to overcoming social issues. This kind of caring action, when seen by a homeless person, can be the difference between giving up and renewed hope. The majority of people sleeping rough do not want to be homeless. Understanding their needs and allowing services to work together to help them overcome their individual issues is something we are keen to see happen through system change.
About Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week
The Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week campaign to highlight the rising number of homeless people in Bristol, challenge stigma in the city and increase understanding of the issues facing our homeless population. It runs from 20-26 February and is supported by many of the leading charities and homelessness service providers in Bristol.
Bristol City Council are supporting the campaign and provide information about raising awareness of homelessness, information for people at risk of being homeless, homeless prevention work and vital information about how to help someone sleeping rough. There is also information about events taking place across Bristol to support Bristol Homelessness Awareness Week. You can visit their Bristol homelessness awareness page here.