Almost 8 out of 10 homeless people suffer some sort of violence, abuse or bullying – according to a survey of more than 450 rough sleepers across England and Wales.
Here’s Rob’s* story:
Rob’s relationship was on the rocks. He turned up to the restaurant, where he worked as a chef, under the influence of alcohol and very soon found himself without a job or his girlfriend – ultimately losing his flat with her too.
After a short while sofa surfing, Rob ended up sleeping rough and decided he wanted a fresh start so headed north, walking from Bolton to Sunderland via other stop-offs including Leeds, Harrogate and York – covering 160 miles.
Rob heard about Oasis Community Housing’s ‘Basis’ service in Sunderland and dropped in; he needed something to eat and drink as well as new clothing. The staff also gave him a list of the churches where he could also get food throughout the week, outside of the drop-in’s opening hours.
Rob didn’t come into the drop-in for a few months after that, but when he did return he had a limp.
He had been offered a lift to Nottingham, to try living in a new city. He’d been sleeping in a shop doorway one night when he was set upon by two youths – beyond taunts and bullying, they left him with a fractured ankle and facial injuries. Someone responded to his calls for help and took him to hospital for treatment. But, after being discharged from hospital onto the streets, his cast got repeatedly wet and he ended up removing it himself.
Rob was concerned about his ankle and asked Liz, one of Basis’ volunteers with a nursing background, to examine it for him. It was swollen, but on the mend. Over the next week or so Rob came into Basis to do his laundry, have a shower, a sit down and something to eat and drink. He was also given clothing from our donations.
During Rob’s rough sleeping, he had been a regular attender of Bethany City Church for food – and had also been supported by Chris Howson, who is one of the Chaplain of Sunderland University. Chris owns a couple of properties in Hendon and was keen to give Rob an opportunity to have a room in one of them.
On moving day, Rob came to Basis and was over the moon, staying for something to eat and drink to celebrate his fantastic news. He came back in the next day and told staff how weird it was sleeping in a bed again!
Rob’s story had a happy ending, but this isn’t always the case for the one in three who have experienced violence while homeless.
Our staff work tirelessly to offer hope, not homelessness to people like Rob and greet hundreds of people every year through the doors of our Basis projects in Sunderland and Gateshead – which offer lifeline services for those who sleep rough. Providing a chance to get warm, clean and fed whilst staff support them to overcome the roots of their homelessness.
* names have been changed