|Homeless on a Bench|
Obviously we need long term solutions for homelessness. We need to address structural factors such as unemployment and commodification of housing which are making housing unaffordable for many. As well as creating affordable housing we need to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. We also need to end criminalisation of the homeless and provide support for those who are on the streets because of mental illness or addiction. The immediate rewards for communities which take action include reduction in crime, the costs of law enforcement and hospital costs and fewer unsightly and unsafe neighbourhoods. However, since the wheels of government turn slowly, many places and organisations are working to make life safer and more bearable for those already on our streets. I am mentioning some of them here for inspiration but most would also appreciate any support you can give whether by way of donation or as a volunteer.
Interim help for the homeless
Here in Hobart for example, we have a mobile medical service and Louie’s Food Van which collects surplus food from food outlets at the end of the day and delivers it to the homeless. One of the more original services is A Paw Up which has monthly popup clinics in the park for the pets of the homeless and disadvantaged. It also provides emergency food and boarding for those unable to care for their pets. Another is Orange Sky Laundry begun in 2014 and which provides mobile laundry services and showers in 35 locations around Australia and New Zealand.This not dissimilar to Lava Mae which has been providing showers and sanitation for California's homeless since 2014.
Several companies are making portable shelters to provide privacy and protection from the weather. These range from tentlike arrangements such as the Aussie- made Streetswags or the EPWR Coat which doubles as a sleeping bag to the tiny homes being produced by a Canadian man and the weatherproof Pods being used in Germany. Top of the range is most probably theIn London, retired double -decker buses are being converted by Bus4Homeless into mobile shelters by Some become mobile dining rooms while others have spaces for activities such as Yoga or learning cooking or business skills. Elsewhere in the UK 11 homeless hubs have been established which provided shelter for rough sleepers and access to a range of specialist services.
Employment and training
- On the subject of training a London based Coffee Company Change Please, trains and employs baristas to run coffee vans for street –side sales or at events.
- The production of the EPWR coat (see above) also provides employment and training for homeless parents.
- In Los Angeles homeless people are being employed to guard empty homes and construction sites
Technology to the rescue
At night when the temperature drops below 7oC in Stockholm, Clear Channel, a Swedish company which has thousands of electronic billboards around the city, switches them to show the location of the nearest shelter. Several companies have also produced apps such as GiveSafe or WeCount (see below) or the Helping Heart Jacket by N= 2 (Amsterdam) which enable the homeless to obtain donations or goods they need without having to beg overtly which is illegal in many places. See Mashable for more on these.