For a few years I’ve been involved in community outreach, visiting rough sleeping sites, campsites, squats and other places that homeless people migrate towards. I have always struggled to understand the appeal of such places to homeless people. Why do people choose to frequent places that are often dangerous, cold, wet and unclean?
In the last few weeks a young man died in Manchester rough sleeping in a tent which was set on fire with him inside. This kind of tragedy is all too common. A tragedy waiting to happen. I hope if nothing else that councils and the government sit up and take notice of this young mans death and do something proactive about rough sleeping. investing in outreach services is a way forward.
Many makeshift campsites have popped up around Manchester and Stockport over the last 12 months. Visiting these places is high on my agenda as I feel strongly that engagement with services is the key to changing peoples circumstances and ultimately their lives. For the last few years I have been involved in The Rucksack project which encourages people to donate practical items to homeless people in order to make that experience of rough sleeping a little easier. I currently have hundreds of rucksacks and sleeping bags sat in storage and everyday they play on my mind, what good are they doing sat in storage? these donations have been given to my charity by members of the public so that we can pass them on the homeless and disadvantaged people, finding the time to do more outreach and get these donations out to the people who need them is a priority. The donations we receive from The Rucksack Project tend to last us for 12 months. however this year we received far more donations so I must do more to distribute these donations.
Community outreach must be purposeful, it must be meaningful. Its not a jolly day out, its not a walk in the park…… Its not something that should be taken light-heartedly. Workers taking part in outreach must be committed to engaging with vulnerable people in order to do anything that they can to help that persons situation. there is no point in them taking part if they just fancy the sound of it, and feel it would be fun walking the streets for hours at night looking in bins.
I’ve taken part in a few official and unofficial “counts” Going out all night, searching the places where people sleep. A short while ago I was involved in one of these and we invited the police to join us. Never again…. All the police did was mess around, not take anything seriously and did everything that we asked them not to do. They were a law unto themselves…… Now I am a big believer that this kind of work must be done with a large sprinkling of humour however that night the police really pissed me off.
Reaching out to people sleeping rough, making then aware that people do care about them and want to help them is essential for so many reasons and something I will forever enjoy and will always look to improving my skills in this area.