To­gether we can cre­ate a na­tion where ev­ery­one has a safe place to call home

Josh Lit­tle­john

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - AGENDA - Josh Lit­tle­john MBE is the co-founder of So­cial Bite.

In 1943 the US psy­chol­o­gist Abra­ham Maslow set out his Hier­ar­chy of Needs.

It states that only when a per­son’s ba­sic hu­man needs are met – food, shel­ter and love (sup­port) – can they be­gin to de­velop and im­prove other ar­eas of their lives.

At So­cial Bite we sub­scribe very much to his the­ory – and three quar­ters of a cen­tury since Maslow pub­lished, it un­der­pins the core of our work.

The real chal­lenge we face is to bring about a sys­temic change in which these val­ues are not only hon­oured, but re­place the puni­tive and stig­ma­tis­ing sys­tem cur­rently in use.

The present re­sponse to home­less­ness does not work.

Peo­ple are con­gre­gated in un­sup­ported, shared res­i­den­tial or hos­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion un­til they are deemed “ten­ancy ready”.

In these shared en­vi­ron­ments, peo­ple are fur­ther stig­ma­tised, must va­cate premises dur­ing the day, have ac­cess to lim­ited or no food stor­age or cook­ing fa­cil­i­ties and are ex­posed to un­safe and chaotic be­hav­iour.

With these back­ground con­di­tions, it can be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to main­tain a ten­ancy when they do move on to set­tled ac­com­mo­da­tion.

This sys­temic fail­ure has cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for highly vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple who suf­fer re­peat home­less­ness and ever de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health and so­cial problems, of­ten lead­ing to pre­ma­ture death.

We need to trans­form the home­less­ness sys­tem in Scot­land to pro­vide ef­fec­tive sup­port for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple with com­plex needs to ac­cess and sus­tain per­ma­nent hous­ing.

Many peo­ple af­fected face a va­ri­ety of bar­ri­ers in­clud­ing iso­la­tion, un­em­ploy­a­bil­ity, mental health is­sues and in­abil­ity to ac­cess nec­es­sary sup­port.

Change is pos­si­ble and it is in­evitable. Build­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive move­ment that in­vites and en­cour­ages ev­ery sec­tor, in­dus­try, and in­di­vid­ual to do what they can, with what they have, to see home­less­ness ended in Scot­land. Ev­ery­one de­serves a safe place to call home; this is a ba­sic hu­man right.

So of­ten peo­ple feel help­less and over­whelmed by is­sues in so­ci­ety. Our Hous­ing First pro­gramme will take 830 of Scot­land’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple into sta­ble, per­ma­nent homes, mark­ing a shift away from in­ef­fec­tive, un­sup­ported tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion.

With an in­ter­na­tion­ally proven 80-90% sus­tain­abil­ity rate af­ter two years, this ap­proach of­fers a real pos­si­bil­ity of suc­cess and a rad­i­cal shift in cur­rent pol­icy.

The So­cial Bite Vil­lage is a pro­ject that com­bines a pi­o­neer­ing hous­ing model, us­ing va­cant coun­cil-owned land, along with a sup­ported com­mu­nity en­vi­ron­ment. This will be home for 12-18 months to 20 peo­ple who are cur­rently trapped in the tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion cy­cle. The pro­ject is en­tirely geared at break­ing the cy­cle of home­less­ness and giv­ing res­i­dents path­ways into em­ploy­ment and per­ma­nent hous­ing, restor­ing hope and con­fi­dence.

Five res­i­dents have al­ready se­cured paid em­ploy­ment, while a fur­ther five have en­rolled on cour­ses at nearby Ed­in­burgh Col­lege or the Open Univer­sity.

One res­i­dent has started tak­ing Span­ish lessons, while mem­bers of the com­mu­nity are also en­cour­aged to take part in yoga classes twice a week and com­plete a “daily mile” to keep fit.

We are ex­cited to watch this trans­for­ma­tional com­mu­nity con­tinue to de­velop. So­cial Bite has al­ready started speak­ing to other cities about recre­at­ing it around the UK.

Sleep In The Park of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to join a mass move­ment to raise funds, raise their voices, and raise home­less­ness fur­ther up the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

It is the largest ever event of its type, with around 10,000 peo­ple join­ing to­gether to call for an end to home­less­ness in Scot­land, for good.

What it is not is an ex­er­cise in pre­tend­ing to be home­less. It is a fundraiser which, we hope, will en­sure no­body is forced to sleep on the streets ever again. We are host­ing four events, one in each ma­jor Scot­tish city. Each will fea­ture gigs from su­per­star acts, a bed­time story from an iconic lo­cal fig­ure and the voices of those with lived ex­pe­ri­ence – peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced home­less­ness and hous­ing in­se­cu­rity.

It is 2018 and we are liv­ing in the four­teenth rich­est na­tion, Scot­land, a na­tion of pi­o­neer­ing in­no­va­tion. Not only will we be shin­ing a light on the is­sue of home­less­ness but ex­pand­ing con­scious­ness.

It is in­cred­i­ble to have so many peo­ple join­ing the move­ment and be­liev­ing that when we all play our part, it is pos­si­ble for Scot­land to be a na­tion where ev­ery­one has a safe place to call home.

So we would like to say a mas­sive thank you to the 1,800 peo­ple who are tak­ing part in Sleep In The Park in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park.

We need to trans­form the home­less­ness sys­tem in Scot­land

A per­son sleep­ing rough in a door­way – a stark il­lus­tra­tion of a fail­ing ap­proach to home­less­ness

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