26 Feb 2016

Homelessness Awareness Week - volunteering and support

The Bristol Homeless Awareness Week may be coming to an end, but we all still have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.

It is important to make sure that people are aware of the wide range of services available to them, should they find themselves at risk of homelessness.

It is also key that those who can, do their bit. Many of our partner organisations are looking for volunteers to allow them to continue to provide their vital frontline services.

More temporary accommodation for homeless people is opening up in the city thanks to the new rough sleeping task group.

To help make these new shelters a success, people are needed to help staff the centres, and St Mungo’s is appealing for volunteers who can offer to help out overnight on a regular basis or as extra cover during cold weather.

Bristol City Council is also appealing to private landlords to help house vulnerable people in the city.

The council are urging letting agencies and property owners to help tackle one of Bristol’s main problems by letting good quality homes to households in housing need.

Brenda Massey, Assistant Mayor for People, said: “There is a growing housing crisis and in 2015 5,600 households in Bristol became homeless or were threatened with homelessness. One of the main causes of homelessness is private sector tenancies ending. 

“As a result more and more families are living in high cost temporary accommodation for far too long, and we are appealing to private landlords to help rectify this growing problem.

“As a council we have a responsibility to get families into more stable accommodation, but in order to do that we need landlords to come forward and offer their properties. And we are offering significant incentives to help this to happen.”

The Bristol City Council website holds information for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

It is vital that people access this information and know what services are available to them before they become homeless so that a solution can be found and a crisis can be averted.

Through the website people can find comprehensive information on services within the city from a range of partner organisations.

Amongst a range of advice organisations that offer help is Bristol Citizens Advice. In the last year they had nearly 4,000 housing related enquiries from people, a 50% increase on the previous year.

Their role is to support people who've fallen behind with their rent or mortgage payments, and are often facing eviction or having their home repossessed. They provide practical debt and budgeting advice and help people to focus on their priority debts.

Sue Evans, Bristol Citizens Advice Director, said: “Over the last few years we've seen an 18% increase in private rents in the city. Housing has become the number one problem people are coming to see us about, more and more of our clients are struggling to manage on very little and are often forced to make impossible decisions between feeding their families and paying their rent.

“Our role is to try and keep people living in their homes or to work with partner agencies to find them decent affordable accommodation in the city.

“Homeless Awareness Week is a great opportunity to raise these issues and to highlight some of the stories forcing people onto the street.”

Further information about the help available for anyone who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless is available at the council’s website at http://www.bristol.gov.uk/homeless

If you are interesting in volunteering with St Mungo’s you can email bristolshelter@mungos.org

Other volunteering opportunities can be found here http://bristolhf.org.uk/home-page/volunteering/

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