Becoming homeless could happen to any of us at any time – that’s the stark reminder from the High Sheriff of Shropshire as World Homeless Day approaches.
The event, held annually on October 10th, is particularly poignant this year given the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dean Harris has focused on domestic abuse, addiction, and childhood poverty and deprivation during her year as High Sheriff of Shropshire. With a correlation between all of these issues and homelessness, she wants to ensure the county is alert to the problems faced by those living without a permanent address.
It’s estimated by Shelter that one in every 201 people is now homeless – which in Shropshire would equate to around 1,500 individuals.
Dean said: “The image many associate with the word ‘homeless’ is of rough sleepers on the street. It’s easy to forget those who are staying in hostels, shelters or with friends and family but without a permanent address of their own are also homeless.
“The statistics are worrying, and the ongoing repercussions of Covid-19 mean the numbers are sadly likely to increase even further. But what’s potentially more worrying is that we have no idea how many ‘hidden homeless’ people we have in Shropshire; these are people who have found a temporary solution like living with friends or in a squat, so they don’t show up on official homelessness records.
“There is sadly still a lack of understanding about how someone may find themselves as homeless – there can be so many reasons from a life event such as a relationship breakdown or becoming unemployed; or leaving prison, care or the army with no home to go to. I’m sure plenty of us feel very far removed from the situation homeless people find themselves in, but in reality, there are so many triggers which could lead someone to that situation that any of us could end up homeless at any point in our lives.”
World Mental Health Day is also held on October 10th – a reminder of the links between the two issues.
Dean added: “The latest statistics suggest one in every 201 people in the UK is homeless, and that figure is sadly rising year on year. So, it’s time for all of us to recognise the problems, educate ourselves about the facts, and see what we can personally do to help – whether it’s supporting one of the local charities working with those who are homeless, or sharing information this World Homeless Day.”
Activities will be held throughout the county to raise awareness, including an art exhibition in three vacant shop windows. Co-ordinated by Shrewsbury Ark and featuring paintings, sculptures and prose produced by homeless community members, the ‘View from the Other Side of the Street’ exhibition will run from 5th to 8th October (www.shrewsburyark/whd).
The Maninplace team has been busy collecting videos of people for their #PassThePillow project, with the resulting montage being launched on October 10th (https://maninplace.org.uk/whd/).
And volunteers will be staying awake between 8pm on October 8th and 8am the following day as part of the STAY:UP fundraiser focused on youth homelessness and organised by Stay Telford as part of Centrepoint’s wider UK event (https://staytelford.co.uk/get-involved/stayup/).
Dean will be marking the day by taking part in a socially-distanced sleep out with the Aico team next month (subject to Covid regulations at the time), who are supporting her charitable projects throughout her shrieval year.
For more information about Dean’s projects, causes and meetings, search ‘High Sheriff of Shropshire’ on Facebook or Instagram. You can also visit www.highsheriffofshropshire.co.uk to nominate an unsung hero for a High Sheriff Award.