Charity of the Month: Ace Of Clubs (Clapham)

Question & answer time.

19 January

Those awkward questions on Homelessness we all want to ask.

Written by JeffH

We asked our Jollie’s friends and family what five questions about homelessness they would want answered by an expert. Here we have the questions answered by Genesis Trust of Bath C.E.O. Paul Solly

How do you define homelessness?

“Well there is a way to define homelessness, the formal way, which is just anyone without permanent housing. And of course that’s true, but then again there’s more to it than that. Because after all… there are the invisible homeless who are couch surfing or staying in hostels but really do not have life-skills to sustain any type of permanent housing.”

What is the largest cause of homelessness?

“I think the biggest worry for me are the people who are, maybe in accommodation or housing, but really just surviving. They are often still a part of the homeless communities, because the homeless communities are really made up of people with many different circumstances: mental illness, addiction, and other situations that really make them places of acceptance… A lot of men and women who get into housing programs don’t feel accepted or really don’t know how to take hold of their lives so being a part of those communities does make it easier for them to slip back into homelessness.

What is something that has really surprised you working with the Genesis Trust?

“Bath is seen as a small place and rich place. So what most surprised me was the need, I mean most of the people that come into our centre live a hand-to-mouth existence. And there is really such a large group of them. So it’s easy to think of Bath as a place where all is fine, but actually there is an intense amount of support needed in this city. Some of the homeless are very visible sleeping in doorways and car parks but there’s also many who are hidden but equally in need”

What is the most unhelpful thing that people think helps the homeless community?

“Here in Bath we and other local homeless and drugs charities recommend that people don’t give money to homeless people on the streets – we suggest they donate to the local charities in this field instead as we are trying to tackle the long term issues.I mean there are professional beggars who are not homeless and want to just prey on people’s pity. Genesis has vouchers that cost 50 pence each which are sold at venues in the city. These can be given to homeless people and can be exchanged by them for hot food at several of our projects.

What do you think is needed most to help those sleeping rough?

“This is a very complex question, there is a genuine shortage of affordable housing in the UK but also many people become homeless due to addiction and poor life circumstances and these issues need to be addressed on a case by case basis also. The public can help by making donations of money and practical items like clothes and bedding but we find that a lot of those we help need a lot of emotional support too as well as education in basic life skills. Men and women often need to learn how to do budget-grocery shopping, improve their social skills and self care , and learn how to navigate the world of job seeking, public transport etc. Having more confidence can really can help prevent individuals being vulnerable in the future. One of our projects runs courses and provides in depth support to people once they get housed to really help people improve their situations.