When we talk about people facing homelessness, it can be easy to forget that every individual has their own story. You never know what’s happened in somebody’s past for them to find themselves without a home. That’s why it’s so important we don’t make assumptions or judgements.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative preconceptions surrounding homelessness. A huge part of our work at Simon On The Streets involves breaking down the barriers faced by people without a home address.
Here are a few things we bear in mind when supporting individuals experiencing homelessness.
Everyone has their own story
Each of our clients has a past. Whether they’ve become homeless recently or have been living on the streets for a long time, we don’t know what their life used to look like.
The factors that lead somebody to sleep rough are often out of their control. These might include:
- Being evicted from housing.
- Escaping from an abusive relationship.
- Losing a job.
- Family conflicts.
- An inability to afford rent.
- Lack of social support.
There’s no universal model for a person facing homelessness, and understanding each individual’s story is crucial. At Simon on the Streets, empathy and compassion are at the heart of our approach.
Mental health struggles are common
There’s an overwhelming connection between homelessness and mental health problems. Yet once somebody is trapped in the cycle of homelessness, their emotional well-being can suffer further.
In a recent report from Shelter, they saw 41% reported better mental health once they’d been offered housing-related support. This highlights the importance of stable accommodation in relation to wellbeing.
But why are mental health issues so prevalent amongst people sleeping rough?
Figures show that individuals facing homelessness are more likely to experience abuse at the hands of the general public. Combine this with the fact that they’re already more prone to experiencing mental health issues, and it’s understandable how a vicious cycle can begin. Being treated with a lack of respect can only exacerbate a person’s existing problems, leading to low self-esteem and poor emotional wellbeing.
It’s unsurprising that our clients are often distrustful of support. That’s why we always aim to build a foundation of trust with them. We can only begin to support their well-being by acknowledging their emotional needs.
A lack of end of life support
An aspect of homelessness that isn’t commonly touched upon is end of life care. Many people living on the streets will die alone due to a lack of social and health support. With the number of deaths amongst the homeless population having increased by 80% in the past two years, this support is more important than ever.
Facing death without emotional support is a lonely prospect. A person experiencing homelessness may be unable to access a hospital or hospice if they’re extremely unwell, which often leaves them with no other option than to lie down in an unsafe and uncomfortable environment.
We recently supported a gentleman who was moved from hospital into a local hospice. Our outreach worker liaised with the specialist worker at the hospice to ensure that he was given the care he deserved at the end of his life. Although this was a difficult and upsetting situation, it was reassuring to know that he passed with dignity.
At Simon On The Streets, we always treat our clients with respect and acknowledge their individual circumstances.
However, we can only continue to support the most vulnerable people in society with your donations. To see how you can help fund our vital outreach work, take a look at our upcoming events.