Image courtesy of: Canterbury Homeless Outreach
Thursday, 10 October marked World Homelessness Day. To raise awareness on the issue, 40 businesses across Canterbury turned their shop fronts purple, the signature colour of Porchlight.
Set up in 1974, Porchlight is a charity organisation working in Kent, helping “vulnerable and isolated people”, according to their website. From a single shelter in Canterbury, Porchlight has grown to help more than 5.000 people in need across the county.
As stated on Porchlight’s website, in the past six months, over 400 people have experienced homelessness in Kent and more than 550 people are in danger of becoming homeless.
National figures also show that Kent has one of the highest proportional of homeless women.
According to Porchlight, there are also specific gender-related problems in homelessness.
Porchlight says that 91% of women who have experienced violence or sexual abuse while rough sleeping does not report it.
“Complex histories of violent relationships and abuse, sometimes stemming from childhood, can result in pattern-forming behaviour which means women may enter into abusive relationships on the street for security and companionship, or to get a roof over their heads,” stated Porchlight volunteer, Dr Sue Hornibrook.
Charities Community action groups helping with the rough sleeping crisis also exist here at the University of Kent. Canterbury Homeless Outreach (CHO) is one of them. Created by students at the University, the society aims to run outreaching nights every night on the streets of Canterbury.
More than donating food or hot drinks, CHO’s role is important in offering a presence for the people experiencing homelessness in Canterbury.
Eve Blay, Secretary for Canterbury Homeless Outreach, explained to InQuire how their outreach system worked. Aiming to do as much as one outreach session each night, CHO counts more than 200 volunteers in its ranks.
The society partners with Greggs on the High Street. The Northern food outlet agrees to give CHO their unsold items by the end of the day and the outreach leaders sort the food according to dietary preferences.
The route of their sessions usually runs through Canterbury’s city centre, Eve mentioned around 15 to 20 rough sleepers are helped on average per session.
“Canterbury Homeless Outreach is a way for rough-sleepers to maintain consistent human contact."
"Even when only a few people pay attention to them during the day, our outreach sessions make it possible for them to talk about their day, tell us about their lives, what brought them to this situation."
Eve added: "I’ve noticed religion is a very important part of their lives - just last week, a man asked me to pray with him.”
Blay also mentioned how important it was for students to get involved in community action.
Blay said: “As students, it is easy to consider university life as the norm, especially with the campus being perched on top of a hill, so far removed from the city centre. Going out on the street to help people, giving a bit of your time is a beautiful way to keep in touch with the real world at such a crucial age. Being aware of the reality of life outside university is very important.”
“CHO is incredible because it is a society - it allows us to socialize and meet people, like any other society. The difference is it also allows us to put our time and energy to good use. Outreach sessions are not very time-consuming and are volunteer-based, which makes CHO such a dynamic organisation.”