Rough sleeping has become more visible in Glasgow. People have been camping out in doorways along Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street. Whilst actual numbers of people sleeping rough have decreased, the visibility of those who are in such a position has risen.
Graham Steven, our Partnerships and Communications Manager, recently spent a day with the Simon Community Street team, speaking with people who were sleeping rough or begging. He writes:
I met people such as Mark who was homeless after getting kicked out of his mum’s house. He said he hadn’t eaten for three days. John was begging to feed his drug habit. He said, “It’s not a lifestyle choice. I didn’t say at school I wanted to be homeless or a beggar when I grew up. You feel you can’t be any worse when you’re like this.”
Of the dozens of people I spoke with today, most had accommodation and were begging to feed their drug habit. Amongst those who had been sleeping rough for lengthy periods, they were reluctant to use the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter in case they met someone they were trying to avoid, or simply because they had given up on life.
What you can do
It can be dangerous when we assume we know how to fix someone’s problems. But here are five simple ways you can make a difference based on the conversations I had with people on the streets such as Mark and John.
Pray: Many of the men and women on the streets have multiple and complex needs and feel beyond help. Please pray for spiritual breakthrough. Pray also for the charities and statutory organisations who are trying to prevent people from becoming street homeless, and for those who provide routes out. Join us for our Prayer Walk on 25 April.
Talk: Being homeless can be lonely and leave you feeling invisible. Saying hello and asking someone’s name can make a big difference. The person might ask for a cup of tea. You could give out the ‘Can we help’ cards to connect the person to our services.
Give: People often find their way to our evening Drop-in when they have hit rock bottom. Donating to and fundraising for Glasgow City Mission enables nourishing food to be provided and relationships built at our Drop-in. It also enables our daytime activities to take place which address many of the underlying issues.
Volunteer: If you are good at listening and love people, apply to join our volunteer team. You’ll have the opportunity to show kindness and listen to people who are rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation.
Prevent: Creating strong communities and being a good neighbour could help someone access the help they need before spiralling into homelessness. How could you help your church do more to reach out to those in need?
What else is being done?
Glasgow Winter Night Shelter: We’re the lead partners in this project. It not only provides a safe and warm place to sleep, we also try and connect people to suitable accommodation. This year staff from the Council’s homelessness services team have been at the night shelter to help people get into the accommodation to which they are entitled.
City Ambition Network (CAN): We’re co-founders in this initiative. CAN ensures homelessness services work for the most vulnerable people who often have very complex needs, and that they receive the support they need to maintain a tenancy.
Simon Community Scotland: This charity has a street team who are out on the streets every day, building relationships with those who are rough sleeping and helping them access support from places such as our city centre project and the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter.
Names in this article have been changed to protect anonymity.