Tuesday 24, April 2012
Salford research highlights homelessness issues
Every night thousands of people sleep rough on the streets of Manchester. The majority of us will see them but a large amount will pretend they
do not exist.
A study undertaken by the University of Salford and Nottingham Trent University has highlighted the causes and potential solutions to this growing problem.
The research suggests that homelessness is caused by a number of commonly occurring circumstances and that support agencies are hampered by conflicting policies and agendas.
Themes within the findings include local connection, indebtedness, criminal conviction and failure to meet the conditions set by drug and alcohol rehabilitation hostels.
The study also shows that agencies have the most success when they can provide personalised support and encouragement at a pace the user is comfortable with.
40-year-old Tracy John, a receptionist from Manchester, volunteers at a soup kitchen for the homeless and believes that developing a personal connection is important.
She said: “I turn up every week and for
those two hours I serve these people a hot meal and share conversation and laugh with them.
“The time I give means everything to them.”
Among the other major causes of homelessness are the breakdown of relationships with other household members, eviction by a landlord or hostel managers, and the termination of an institutional duty of care such as a prison or hospital.
Dr Graham Bowpitt from Nottingham Trent University said that common factors behind such evictions include "domestic violence or abuse, bereavement, alcohol or drug dependency, mental health problems, criminality, limited social networks, poverty and unemployment."
Standing behind a small table on Manchester’s Oxford Road, Tracy points out that not all homeless people fall into one of these categories.
She said: "I
have spoken to one guy called Mark who simply likes the freedom that living on
the street gives him. He shared stories with me about the different places
he has travelled all over the world, and he was genuinely happy.
“There is one woman called Jane who comes every single week. She always looks so sad and is extremely polite and well spoken. After some lengthy conversation I’ve learned what an incredibly intelligent and interesting person she is.
“I think it is very important to recognise these people as individuals.”
Professor Peter Dwyer from the University of Salford said: “Across a range of organisations the majority of the support workers are extremely dedicated, but the most successful are able to spend a lot of individual time and work flexibly with their clients to tackle the formidable barriers that homeless people face in overcoming their social exclusion.”
* Follow Joe Turner's experience below as he spends a night on the streets of Manchester
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