Homelessness, sadly, remains an issue, not just for my constituents in London but all over the country. I wanted to understand why people find themselves homeless and what we, as politicians and as individual members of the community, can actually do to help.
I went to meet Amanda Cadogan and her team at the Hope Centre in Acton on the 2nd March. They run an amazing charity which aims to support homeless people in the local community and is run from the back of a church, given free by the Priest. They offer shelter, food, drinks, clothes twice a week and a place to lay their heads safely for a few hours sleep. I was struck by how supportive all the staff were and how grateful the users of the centre are.
Talking to Amanda was a real eye opener. Homelessness can get anyone at any time. Issues such as mental health, family break ups, financial issues and even bereavements can all leave people unable to cope, finding themselves homeless. Amanda stressed that these people need support and sometimes education to get back on their feet again. It is also about guidance. You cannot give someone a house and some money and leave them to their own devices if they are not sure how to manage it all.
Amanda uses a direct approach in supporting them. She knows that everyone has to be accountable for their actions and she has no problems calling the police or other organisations if she feels it is needed. At the same time, she offers guidance, support and most importantly, hope, to those who desperately need it.
One thing I saw first hand at the Hope Centre, is that people in government can’t assume they always have all the answers. We need to speak to people on the ground like Amanda who know first-hand what is actually needed.
Amanda told me, “high level politicians need to start listening to people at this level. A direct mediator who is on the ground dealing first hand with these issues but can still report back to the higher level, could be the way forward.”
The issues are all too real for a lot of people and this project was something that really moved me. The grass roots nature of the project draws on the support of the community to try and get people back on their feet during desperate times. I was moved by the stories of despair but then hope from some of the regular attendees. This is indeed, a community working together for everyone.
You can view my short video of my visit below.
Homelessness is very much in the news at the moment. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report which was released on 14th March, highlighted many of the key issues we should be thinking about. You can find a link here. The Hope Centre in West London is a living, working example of many of the issues and potential solutions detailed in the CSJ’s report on homelessness.