News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Thursday, 25 October 2007

View From a Rubbish Skip

I had a rather sobering experience this evening.

While waiting for some work colleagues to buy a take away from Budokan on Whiteladies Road, I parked at the back of the building, in the access road that used to lead to the car park next to Clifton Down Station. I hadn't realised that the site had become a building area, so I was forced to turn the car round and wait in the service area near the skips where the restaurants and shops place their daily rubbish.

While listening to the radio, I was surprised to see a young man in his 20s walk over to a skip and climb in. Proceeding to take out various items, I could see his smile as he discovered and pulled out what he obviously regarded as good finds - some hardback books, a china ornament and a few other wood and wicker items.

At almost the same time, another man walked towards the service door at the back of the building. Assuming he was turning up for work in one of the kitchens, I was surprised to see him stop by the door and start pulling out some of the cardboard sheets from the adjacent skip.

Within a few minutes, this man had made a makeshift shelter, using the cardboard as the roof of a structure which had the skip and the back wall of the building as its two walls. Since there was no further movement from the area, I concluded that he had settled down for the night.

Perhaps it was because I was in Clifton, home of students and many successful professionals, that I was taken aback by what I had just seen. Perhaps it was because it was early in the evening - about 6.30. Maybe it was because I have become used to only seeing homeless people in certain environments and that like many Bristolians, I don't often see my fellow-citizens settling down for the night or climbing into commercial skips.

The Bristol Soup Run Trust estimate that they serve "up to 60 people a night". Beyond that, I have not been able to find any reliable figure as to the number of people who will be sleeping on the streets of Bristol tonight.

Other local organisations providing practical help in this area include The Julian Trust who run an emergency night shelter in Dean Street, Crisis Centre Ministries (the Wild Goose Coffee Shop, Life Training, etc.), The Big Issue South West (the magazine is its best known project) and The Cold Weather Group (as the name implies, actively co-ordinating provision of shelter during the winter months) .

All of the above groups provide information about volunteering and giving.

For the background to the wider issue of homelessness in Britain, Shelter's chief executive explains why it is so prevalent.

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Paul said...

The Outreach team's weekly count of people sleeping rough in Bristol is usually less than 10. But then, they don't cover the whole of Bristol, and there are places they can't go to check, so the actual number must be higher.

On the other hand, many of the people served by the Soup Run Trust each night do have somewhere to sleep - a hostel, B&B, or even their own flat.

On the other, other hand, those sleeping rough in the outskirts of the city are unlikely to be able to use the Soup Run.

When the BCAN Homeless Forum did a survey last February, one in five nights (22%) were reported as being spent roofless. You can see the full results here:

scarlet reynolds said...

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