A fresh approach by ‘Street Support’ an organisation that is tackling homelessness digitally

St Peter’s Square, Manchester

Street Support is an online based network that helps eradicate homelessness in cities through collaborations with already existing charities and by providing vital information for those in need via their online site.

 Street Support is available in cities such as Greater Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Liverpool. Each city deals with high levels of homelessness and poverty and it is the only organisation that is based solely online, adapting to the needs of todays society where word spreads faster digitally than it does through physical, verbal conversation.

Those who are on the streets looking for shelter or somewhere they can get a meal can go on Street Support and access such information within seconds.

“The focus for us is about being that online resource and education. Sharing news and latest updates” says Gary Dunstan, co-founder of Street Support Network.

The site lists all the available organisations and shows how close/ far they are on the map. It also allows people to donate money and volunteer is they wish to.

When speaking to Gary it was clear how important it was for him to build partnerships in the city as well as outside to get the maximum support for those in need.

“It is not just Manchester, it is UK wide and there are over 300,000 people homeless in the UK. Manchester has its own unique problems and Street Support tries to save others time and money by sharing their experiences in Manchester in hopes that it will help other cities”

For organisations such as Street Support there seems to be a lack of funding from the government and the city councils, often these cities aren’t prioritised as much as London, being the capital,

“In London there is more money” says Garry, “they have more to tackle homelessness whereas in Manchester there is not as much money, so I think this is why [poverty and homelessness] is bigger and more visible”

“All the money [Street Support] have raised has come from friends, philanthropists, faith groups and now we receive a little bit from the council but again, their budgets have been cut” says Garry.

It seems like organisations such as Street Support have a good idea behind them just not enough support or funding. It is important to ask ourselves the question, why does the government prioritize cities such as London and sacrifice the rest of the UK as a consequence.

Is this London-centric approach the right one? Is London succeeding at the expense of the rest of the UK?

When you delve a little deeper into this social issue of poverty and homelessness and forget about the monetary side of things, a little kindness and love goes a long way.

I had the opportunity to speak with Simon Rock, 35, who has been homeless for the past 3 years, he met with me in Central Manchester “why would you want to interview me, there are more interesting people to speak to” were the first words he said to me.

Although, I knew the talk wasn’t going to be comfortable and quite a hard one, Simon seemed to be used to talking about himself and his situation “people ask me how I ended up on the streets all the time, you would be surprised how many people come up to me when I am begging and ask me what happened”

“I always say the same thing ‘life happened’ because I don’t like to be negative and bring them down, this is my life now I am used to it, it is nice to know that there are people who are nice enough to ask though”

When I asked him if he had any unpleasant experiences he was reluctant to go into detail,

“There are bad people everywhere you go, I am just an easy target. A lot of the time it’s drunks that are coming back from a night out, this is central manchester after all and [this] happens often”

I was intrigued to ask him what help he has received especially after speaking with Street Support’s Gary.

“When I first lost my job and then became homeless I was put into emergency accommodation, then my friends took me in so that accommodation was lost, when I fell out with my pal who took me in I was back on the streets, I don’t have anyone who can help me so I do what I do best, begging and sleeping rough is a part of me now” said Simon.

Although it is hard to understand how the government aims to help those who are from outside of the UK when they can’t seem to manage the already existing issue that is on their doorstep. With the recent announcement of the Homelessness Reduction Act that is to become active in April we should all hope for a significant reduction of people living on the streets. The Act aims to provide help to everyone, even the people outside of the areas they find themselves in.

Gary from Street Support is in support of the Reduction Act and thinks it is a brilliant idea, it will keep the “vulnerable” people safe he says.

When I mentioned these plans to Simon he had no idea, he doesn’t keep up with the news and says he only “sleeps on newspaper [he doesn’t] read them”

“I can only hope that the government manages to reduce the homelessness issue but it is so big, I see the same people all the time, they have become my family, it will be hard but they need to do it now before it spirals out of control” says Simon.

 

Listen to Gary talk about street support and his thoughts on The Homelessness Reduction Act below

 

If you are at all affected by the issues discussed or would like to get involved or help by donating. Visit https://streetsupport.net

 Gary Dunstan can be reached via Twitter @GaryDunstan

 

Aleksandra Ganuszko

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