Speaking to the homeless in Coventry

Homelessness in the West Midlands, and around the country, is rising, and it’s expected to continue doing so. At the moment, around a quarter of a million people are experiencing some form of homelessness in Britain. There is a tendency to victim blame, to assume that these people are homeless because of drug abuse or alcoholism, but maybe we should be asking ourselves if we are really doing all we can for those sleeping rough on our streets in coventry.

Of course, when the word ‘homeless’ is said, images of people huddled in blankets in streets flash through our minds. This is not the case for all those who are struggling or have struggled with homelessness, as many people at least have friends and family that they can turn to in times of need. Although this is an absolutely awful situation to face, it is definitely preferable to the vulnerability and cold that those sleeping rough face. Not everyone has the support that many of us take for granted, which leads to a situation unimaginable for most.

I also spoke with Bernie, another homeless man in Coventry. He told me about the embarrassment her feels having to ask people for money, but that this is his only income as he struggles to receive benefits without a fixed address and that, as homelessness rises, the pressure on charities such as the Salvation Army is too much and they do simply not have room for everyone. He has spent every night of 4 months on the street.

‘I feel so trapped’ he told me. He spoke about his struggles to get a job, to escape homelessness and that as he is homeless, he has nowhere to wash his clothes and can’t provide a fixed address or an easy means for potential employers to contact him. He also said ‘no one wants to hire a homeless guy’, highlighting to me the shame he must feel being homeless, and the way he feels people look upon him and others in his position.

Official figures show that there are 132 rough sleepers in the West Midlands region, however there could possibly be even more, and it was only last year that a homeless man froze to death in Birmingham, showing the severity of the problem, and the level of suffering amongst these vulnerable people in our society. There are also 14,700 homeless households in the Midlands.

The problem is only predicted to grow if nothing is done, as there is an increasing lack of social housing, and prices in the private sector have soared. Both the homeless men I spoke to told me about their struggles to get help from the state, and that they feel shelters and charities are struggling, and we have also seen the number of people relying on food banks increase too. Subsequently, there is understandable pressure for something to be done, and currently West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, is looking towards imposing a scheme which has been tested in Finland. He has put in a bid for £15 million through the government’s Housing First scheme, which will then be used to give the homeless housing, to help them rebuild their lives.

– Daisy Twine

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