On the Streets – you can help
2019 is the 29th year that a group of people from local churches in East Grinstead have slept out overnight on the pavements of East Grinstead to raise money for local homeless charities. In that period over £110,000 has been donated to a variety of organisations including Crawley Open House, The Easter Team and Worthing Churches Homeless Project. Sadly homelessness continues to be a real and increasing problem in our society and is getting worse – no-one asks to be homeless. Figures for England show that 1 in 200 people are homeless and in London 1 in 53. The numbers have also increased in East Grinstead. This year’s event will be held overnight on Saturday 29 June with a Street Collection in the morning and we would love to beat last year’s total of £4500.
The Sleep Out, the Street Collection, and the Spring and Autumn Charity Feasts are all promoted by the East Grinstead Justice and Peace Group which has been running for 30 years, and which includes members from all the churches in our town. The Group is involved in a wide range of social justice issues ranging from concern about housing and homelessness, refugees and prison visiting. Over the years we have been supported by sponsorship through the churches, donations on the street, and by our Town Mayors and Councillors, some of whom have slept out with us. Thank you to anyone who has helped our cause.
All churches (and some local schools) also collect packet and tinned foodstuffs, clothes and sleeping bags for Crawley Open House which provides support and services for those suffering the effects of homelessness, unemployment, loneliness, discrimination, or other forms of social exclusion. Their support is available to anyone in need 24 hours of 365 days of the year. Despite a great campaign effort by over 5000 people who signed online and paper petitions, COH will sadly lost its grant of £250,000 from West Sussex CC from September. It is determined to stay open and is asking local people to join its Be 1 in 1000 fundraising campaign to try and plug the gap left by this decision so its vital work can be continued (see www.crawleyopenhouse.co.uk ).
- The majority of local councils in England are struggling to find any stable housing for homeless people in their area, leaving them forced to place more and more people in unstable temporary accommodation. There are urgent calls for more permanent and genuinely affordable homes to be built.
- As housing supply dwindles and rents outstrip wages and benefits, 70% of local authorities surveyed for the report said they had difficulties finding social housing for homeless people last year, while a striking 89% reported difficulties in finding private rented accommodation.
- There are 78,000 homeless households in England in temporary accommodation and, if current trends continue, more than 100,000 such households will be trapped in temporary accommodation by 2020.
- The problem of rising homelessness pressures is not limited to London – 40% of councils in London said the number of people seeking help from their homelessness services had risen over the last year, compared to 76% in the Midlands, 70% in the south and 62% in the north.
Homelessness can happen to anyone and it has been said that no-one is more than two months away from the streets if they lose their job, accommodation, suffer depression and have no family support. The first person who came to speak the J&P Group back about homelessness in 1993 was an ex University College of London lecturer who slept on the streets for nearly a year – luckily for him he was helped by St Mungo’s in London and was able to rebuild his life. Being ‘homeless’ encompasses other experiences as well as rough sleeping, like living in a hostel, or ‘sofa surfing’. Homelessness is complex. It can be a result of individual circumstances – relationship breakdown, bereavement, mental health issues – often exacerbated by wider social and economic factors – eviction, job loss, or lack of access to much needed physical or mental health care. It is a problem faced by individuals but it’s also a social concern. Let’s work together to end homelessness.
If anyone would like to join in the Sleep Out, or be happy to do an hourly slot on the Street Collection which runs from 10-2pm, you are most welcome to join us.
Further information about the Sleep Out and East Grinstead Justice and Peace Group from Susan Joy 01342 835190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike West 01342 325359.