Image © life.thru.lens via Twenty20

UK councils need to do more to stop homelessness in places like Birmingham

A group of adults and young people from the George Road Baptist church in Erdington, along with Birmingham City Mission had arranged a sleep out in the centre of Birmingham to highlight the extent of homelessness in the city.

I interviewed three people from the group who gave me an insight of what they felt homeless people have to go through living on the streets day in and day out.

In the interview Ed Smith, who arranged the event, spoke passionately about why he wanted to sleep out and the reason he wanted to help. “Being homeless is not fun, we have trains and emergency vehicles going by, the noise and so much going on. ”

I also interviewed two of the young people from the group who had slept out, students Ezekiel and Abigail , who spoke of the dangers of living on the street and why they think more should be done to help get people off the streets and into a safe place.

“Homeless people are not as fortunate as we are, there could be rats where they are sleeping. A homeless person could have a lot going on and don’t know who to go to for help,” Ezekiel said.

“Homeless people don’t have a home like we do. After the sleep out  we were safe and had a warm home to go to,” Abigail added.

Homelessness can be caused by many different reasons such as lack of affordable homes, poverty and unemployment, people leaving violent relationships, people leaving prisons and in some cases mental health issues. People sleeping out on the streets are more likely to be victims of violent attacks whilst homeless, also they are over nine times more likely to take their own lives.

Homelessness is not new to any towns or cities. There have been many homeless people living in and around the city of Birmingham during all the years I have lived here. I came across many homeless people in the city sleeping in doorways, under bridges and anywhere they can put a mattress or a piece of cardboard. They beg for food or money because they don’t have access to support. And the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortage of jobs means more people are likely to have become homeless recently.

The question has been asked over and over “What can be done to prevent homelessness?” but sadly there is no-one-size-fits-all to the homelessness crisis. But in my opinion I think if councils come together homelessness can be tackled so there are less people - especially those with children - sleeping on the streets, in bedsits, in tiny hotel rooms or on friends’ sofas. Because of the coronavirus risk, the authorities have done well  taking rough sleepers and the homeless off the streets of towns and cities. It is now in their best interest to house these people permanently.

The crisis in Afghanistan and other countries means people are fleeing by the hundreds and thousands. The government has agreed to let some of these refugees come to the UK. To make sure these vulnerable people do not end up on the streets it would be in the best interest of the councils to build more affordable housing.

Image © jodywissing via Twenty20

About the author

My name is Althia Loraine Barnett, and I Live in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham with my husband Anthony. I was born in Jamaica, I am a wife, mother and grandmother, I love to cook, bake and also try my hand at craftwork. I came to live in the UK 19 years ago. I worked as a dinner lady cleaner, care worker, and school bus guide with  Birmingham City Council. I was schooled in Jamaica, I didn’t finish high school so I developed my education by reading and practicing writing  from other educational sources.

I came into journalism by attending a Media Lab meeting with a friend and it started from there. My writing style is around migrant-related stories, current affairs and opinion pieces. My new found love in journalism is to see myself writing articles for well established news corporations.

My ambition is to write articles that will attract the most advanced organisations who might be looking for new and exciting writers with different writing styles. My belief is we should always look out for each other, as this world was created in the image of  the rainbow, we come in different colours, shapes and sizes if we mix them together what a wonderful world this would be to live in.

This article is part of our Voices of the Economy series. The project brings together the economic experiences and opinions of people from a range of different backgrounds and showcases voices which are not heard as often when we talk about the economy. To find out more and share your own story click here.

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