With the UK emerging from Lockdown and most people feeling like their worlds are returning to normal. For AMAT UK and the homeless individuals we work for – the prospect of a return to ‘normal’ is chilling as once again there are 4,000 people sleeping rough in the UK every night.
World Homeless Day falls on Sunday 10 October and is always a priority for us. I want to draw attention to the people who experience homelessness locally and how we can involve the local community to get involved in responding to homelessness. We’re planning a week of activities and events to raise awareness via our social media platforms, which will include case studies and information. We’re also planning to provide engaging activities and events for people within the homeless community. This will be taking place daily from Monday 4 to Friday 8 October.
Myself and my colleague Laura Baker, our Senior Manager of Support Services have been invited to attend an event run by Medway council to acknowledge World Homeless Day, where local organisations who work with homeless people will be asked to share their thoughts on where the gaps are in what we’re doing in Medway to prevent homelessness. Partnership working is a huge part of what AMAT does, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to feed back to the local authority about this vital issue.
We are particularly concerned about the intended cuts to Universal Credit, effecting the poorest within our society. This, coupled with the law changing to lessen protections around evictions due to COVID-19 rent arrears, leave us in no doubt that we will see an increase in homelessness within the Medway Towns. We will ensure that we make ourselves heard, and that Medway council are clear that a pro-active approach is required. As always – If you see anyone rough sleeping, please report it to Streetlink by visiting www.streetlink.org.uk.
World Mental Health Day also falls on 10 October. This year’s theme is Mental Health in an unequal world. Mental health is a vital national issue at the best of times. But the extra challenges caused by COVID-19 can’t be underestimated. With some 78% of our Residents reporting a mental health issue and 63% of them having a mental health diagnosis, it’s clear to see that mental health issues are often the root cause of homelessness.
This year, more than ever, it’s apparent that more resources need to be made available to mental health services for getting issues diagnosed and treated using medication and/or holistic therapies. From a local study conducted by Medway Health Watch, there has been a 30% decrease in mental health referrals demonstrating that people are not getting the help they need. 20% of the individuals that we work have said that their mental health has worsened as a result of national lockdown and local doctors are now seeing a rise in people reporting severe mental health difficulties.
There are predictions that the recent rise will mean demand outstrips pre-coronavirus levels – perhaps by as much as 20%, which makes the need for homeless people to access physical and mental health provision in a space that is accessible and welcoming to them, more vital than ever. Until this crisis is addressed there will continue to be pressure on all the blue light services and an increase in homelessness.
We will also be holding an event for the staff to acknowledge World Mental Health Day. We will take a couple of hours out to socialise, eat some food and play some board games, relax, and unwind after the stress of the working week. All year round, AMAT offers staff access to the Employee Assistance Programme, alongside regular supervision, so we quickly provide support to them if they are experiencing any issues.
October certainly is a month that gives us so much to consider. As ever I am grateful for the ongoing effort and professionalism that our amazing staff show on a daily basis, and as we head into the darkness of winter – I am as always proud of the light that they provide to members of the homeless community.