Homelessness in Sheffield was never an area that Nourish was supposed to be involved in, but from very early on it became of interest due to the interactions we had through our 'pay it forward tree', a concept that connected caring customers with those who needed a warm meal, smile and a place where there was no judgement, through simply providing a platform where customers could pay for a meal, to be collected by someone, anyone who needed it.
Though it became difficult to manage, there's no denying that it was successful and it showed that the people of Sheffield really do care and will invest when there is a trusted platform to do so.
Homelessness in Sheffield is on the rise, but so are the many issues associated with it, such as anti-social behaviour, drug issues and the need for improved and increased mental health support. Sheffield City Council and the many charities, despite funding and constant investment are struggling to manage the many issues that it brings to the city. But can we actually end homelessness in the city? Places such as Monaco have no homeless issues at all, but then that's not surprising, as they also have a zero tolerance to it and you're likely to be moved on to neighbouring Nice if you try tapping in the streets of Monaco. But then Sheffield is not the French Riviera, or a standalone tax haven either.
There are however many initiatives out there, in other cities which are working to provide a better future for those most vulnerable in society, that find themselves sleeping rough on the streets. Models such as the housing first project, or the Denver works project are showing impressive and positive results so far and are helping to bring together services all under one roof.
In terms of ending homelessness in Sheffield, it would seem that there is certainly an appetite to really tackle the problem, first by slowing down the escalating issues, then looking at ways of reducing both the financial cost to the city and the number of those finding themselves homeless.
A serious strategy needs to be developed, one that is based on:
working together - multi collaborations - including businesses, charities, the general public, council and local media. It then needs to be tied to an end goal, with measurable targets too, so we as a city can be held accountable to achieving success and that unlike most initiatives, doesn't fall off in to the abyss, it also needs to be realistic, both in terms of achievements but also time frames too.
What we know works & why
Food initiatives such as the pay it forward tree at Nourish - connects public and those in need
Tent city - on awareness only
Utah model (medicine hat) - eases the problem then addresses the cause, shows quick progress can be made, time sensitive, action orientated
Denver works project - jobs for the homeless - engages the homeless, shows them a future, bridges the gap from homeless to working on a community service type model
Albuquerque works ’there’s a better way’ - as above
Sam Tsemberis - Pathways to housing - ‘housing first’ initiative - a 'no barrier’ systems - here for all, problems aside. creates trust, non-judgement and acceptance - all battles faced daily, system engaging - opening channels to what’s available - serves as a reminder of not being stuck in the viscous circle
Laundry/shower trucks - engaging and offering essential services to those without a home
Social bite - Scotland - engages the homeless with food, jobs and connects them with the general public
To move forward as a city, we first need to establish the real cost of homelessness to the city, nit just in temporary housing or medical care, but the cost to the emergency services and the estimated cost to businesses too. It is also crucial to know exactly what is available in the city and what is currently working and making a difference. Above all else, an understanding of the needs of those who find themselves homeless and the barriers they are faced with, which are stopping them from moving forwards.
Essentially, to stop homelessness, people need houses, they need a purpose, they need professional support and they need an understanding from the people of Sheffield that it ain't easy and it's not always plain sailing. We can sleep rough for one night, serve food once a week and drop pizzas of on a Saturday night, but as standalone acts, they offer no credible solution to the problem.
Homelessness should not exist in a city like Sheffield, the people care too much to just standby and let this issue keep getting worse, but there needs to be a strategy that finally brings everyone together and focusses on what is proven to work. There are solutions, they just need bringing under one roof, to finally end homelessness in Sheffield.