World Homeless Day & World Mental Health Day 2017
Over the last few years homelessness has risen dramatically and continues to increase. In 2016, there were 4,134 people estimated to have been sleeping rough on England’s streets but visible acts of street sleeping only tell a proportion of the whole story. Research by Crisis estimates that 62% of single homeless people are ‘hidden’, sleeping on sofas or staying with friends, and are therefore unlikely to appear in the official statistics.
The picture in Watford is similarly bleak. Homelessness is a common sight as we go about our daily lives. The commute to work often takes us past doorways secreting huddled figures, muffled voices requesting loose change, and saturated, dog-eared blankets evidencing a night in the cold and rain. Although we estimate that there are over 30 people rough sleeping in our town each night, there are likely many more at risk of losing the roof that shelters them from the elements.
It may be difficult for most of us to imagine how it must feel, often alone, surrounded by the seemingly oblivious passers-by. The effect on mental health can be devastating. Homeless Link reported that 72 of every 100 people experiencing homelessness are suffering from mental health issues, compared to only 30 of the general population. Across New Hope, 51 in every 100 have reported mental health needs but the number of undiagnosed issues could be far greater. For many who are homeless, low self-esteem is at the root of their other difficulties and can often be tied up with mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety.
The Intervention Team, New Hope’s most recent support service, has been designed to provide comprehensive, wrap-around support for those at imminent risk of rough sleeping by utilising the knowledge and expertise of team members from our partner agencies. Formed of a team member from each of Citizens Advice Bureau, Herts Young Homeless, Change Grow Live and New Hope, the Intervention Team offers specialist legal, mental health, drug and alcohol, and rough sleeping advice and support. Alongside the Intervention Team, New Hope operates the Community Market Garden, a safe space where service users can support their recovery in a peaceful, outdoor setting.
Although both World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day are excellent opportunities to remember those less fortunate than ourselves and to find out more, it is important to be aware of the ways we, as members of the caring public, can get involved and make a difference.
There are many ways to provide valuable backing to New Hope or other local homelessness charities – from volunteering to donations of warm clothes, coffee or toiletries – all help is appreciated, but ultimately, the support provided has a cost and every financial donation made is used to give a bed, a hot shower, food and personalised care to those in need. If you would like to support New Hope with a donation or even becoming a regular supporter, please visit www.newhope.org.uk/donate. Thank you.