Updated: Jan 21
Blog post by Project LIGHT team member, Imogen Holly Goode.
Homeless and vulnerable communities face challenging living circumstances every day, being deprived of the most basic commodities and living essentials that we all can take for granted – one simply being sheltered accommodation, and in an ideal world, somewhere that they can finally call home. I intend for this blog to provide education and draw awareness to this challenge particularly in my university city – Leicester. I have resided in Leicester approaching three years now, and have come to love the city that I live in. Homelessness is a prevalent issue in many cities, yet I have noticed this myself during my time in Leicester. This blog will introduce myself and my involvement with the society that has inspired me to raise awareness of a specific local charity, Action Homeless, who provides life-changing aid and support to their vulnerable locals in the city, their stories and impacts, and how you can support the charity to continue providing these incredible impacts.
Who am I?
Entering my third-year of law at the University of Leicester, I am encouraged to make a positive impact from the very beginning as my contributions of a volunteer member in Project LIGHT, one of ten of the University of Leicester Pro Bono Society’s projects.
What is Project LIGHT?
The University of Leicester’s Pro Bono Society is a student-led organisation with the intention to combine our relevant legal studies with a variety of concepts, providing general legal assistance to the public, aiding those who plea their innocence in criminal convictions, and much more – with the main purpose of providing support to individuals, since the Latin phrase ‘pro bono’ translates into ‘for the public, or common good’. We form one of those projects.
Our Project LIGHT branch in particular supports individuals who are part of homeless and vulnerable communities. We collaborate with the School of Medicine to provide our local homeless and vulnerable communities with legal and healthcare assistance, by raising awareness and support via research and online presence, while also contributing in volunteering activities. Project LIGHT (Leicester Initiative Good Health Team) was founded in 2010 by the Medical School who carried out research with North American students on homeless communities in Leicester to assess and understand their needs. Our project intends to grow this year even amongst the pandemic, and I have high hopes that it will make even more beneficial impacts as the pandemic passes and as more opportunities arise to get involved in.
Who are Action Homeless?
Action Homeless are a charity founded in Leicester over 40 years ago who provide support for those who are vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. The charity’s ultimate goal is to ensure that no individual nor a family has to result to sleeping on the streets.
“The chance for change”
Action Homeless are there for any individual who may face accommodation crisis. The charity provides tremendous care by safely accommodating 204 people on any night, across different accommodation projects. The accommodation provided caters for a host of individuals facing different situations, whether it be emergency beds to avoid rough sleeping, accommodation for a short-term crisis, supported housing, and particularly for families, long-term shared homes.
What positive impacts do Action Homeless make?
Financial support that Action Homeless receives provides a life-line for those vulnerable communities who are facing such traumatic and fearful times in their lives. Donations and fundraising relieve costs of purchasing and renovating properties and directly supports those affected by homelessness. Last year alone, the charity provided advice to over 1000 vulnerable people who were facing homelessness. Moreover, donations also fund the support of Bridge House, a woman’s refuge that currently receives no statutory funding.
Action Homeless has pursued a number of projects, and aim to achieve even more. With an estimated 3000 empty homes in Leicester, these are perfect (and lost) opportunities to provide accommodation for those who face prominent homelessness and could provide a solution. Action Homeless have worked continuously and committedly, the results include 23 renovated properties, which are now providing nearly 100 extra accommodation spaces – this means 100 more homes, and 100 less homeless.
As previously mentioned, Action Homeless supports Bridge House. This support is extremely important, providing an essential role of housing women and children subject to domestic violence. The accommodation that Action Homeless helps to provide are safe homes for up to 7 women and their children at each site. Bridge House is also supported by the Children in Need charity campaign, whom help to aid young children who face these adverse circumstances such as domestic violence and homelessness at such early stages of their lives.
Action Homeless also provides food to those in crisis, who may be struggling to access this basic necessity. Volunteers in the Food Stop supplied over 3,600 people with food just last year – this was as much food to fill 4000 shopping trolleys. Hopefully, they have the potential to feed even more vulnerable people in our community.
Action Homeless: Sam’s Story
With 86% of clients feeling that Action Homeless had given them choice and control over their lives, we can focus on an individual story, and how the help changed their lives for the better in time of desperate need.
One example we can identify is Sam, a vulnerable individual who became homeless following the loss of ability to afford rent, and experienced sleeping on the streets. Sam’s main goal was to submit a housing application which would allow him to move into his own home, but, unfortunately Sam still owed rent previously. Sam has learning difficulties (as a result of an injury from childhood) meaning he may easily misunderstand certain information.
Action Homeless aided Sam in contacting the council and debt agencies, and in result, later Sam’s housing application was accepted. Sam was regarded as a brilliant resident while housed by Action Homeless, and also supported other vulnerable residents.
Sam was thrilled when was able to move into a bungalow. He was also advised to apply for a grant, which subsequently awarded him with household items, and Action Homeless’ emergency COVID-19 fund afforded some other basic household items. There was also the impression that the result may have relieved some pressure on family relationships, after the charity encouragingly saw him decorating his new bungalow with the help of his family.
Ultimately, Sam is now in a happy place and has been provided with the necessary advice from Action Homeless which should avoid him falling into risk of homelessness again – Action Homeless really did provide Sam with the chance for change.
The effects of COVID-19
The implications of the global pandemic have had an unfortunate profound effect on charities, via volunteering opportunities, fundraising, and so on.
Since lockdown first began back in March this year, 500 people have required to be placed in a form of temporary housing, as well as the usage of food banks being relied upon which has increased by 40%. To make matters worse, there has been a whopping 600% increase in homelessness presentations within this time frame in Leicester. Specifically, Action Homeless have also been impacted in their received funding, which lost £5000 each week as a result of the lockdown. Also, capacities at accommodation sites were affected, for example Mayfield House, where capacity was reduced by half.
Nevertheless, responses to these detriments have been warming, with Action Homeless kindly receiving donations and grants from local communities, local government, and businesses too – I am proud to see that my university was one of these organisations who have been supporting the charity. Support has not only been financial – local volunteers have selflessly given 2300 hours of their time to the Food Stop even throughout these difficult times.
As we move throughout the COVID-19 crisis, there is still much to do. Action Homeless are calling for more food, more accommodation, and more funding to offer more solutions to homelessness. Following the aftershocks which may follow moving-out of the pandemic, homelessness could continue to rise, hence, Action Homeless are going be subject to evermore increased reliance on the Leicester community to provide as many of the individuals and families as possible with advice, safety, food and housing.
How you can show your support
Even though Action Homeless provided over 400 people with housing last year, there was still over 800 referrals – much hard work has been carried out, however, the crisis is ever growing and there still may be a long way to go.
“The success we see in helping people overcome challenges, find new homes and achieve their goals isn’t possible without support of our local community”
Donations and support can be shown through social media, Virgin Money Giving, or by heading to the Action Homeless website, you can find the Action Homeless Instagram page and website below for more information. Any donations and support will fund towards all the incredible reasons, stories and impacts that I have mentioned in this blog which Action Homeless have achieved, and they are just some of the benefits. Action Homeless pledges 100% of fundraising to be used directly in supporting those facing homelessness in both Leicester and Leicestershire.
Our support together will have a warming impact on Leicester and its homeless and vulnerable communities. Thank you!
Follow Project LIGHT on Instagram @uol_projectlight