HOMELESSNESS - AN ISSUE WE REFUSE TO SEE

As part of my #EMPOWERME campaign I want to shed light on a rising issue here in Northern Ireland. I have wanted to get more involved in bringing awareness to homelessness ever since I came back from living in the USA. I was one of the most heartbreaking experiences witnessing human life in that way. It’s near impossible to walk down a street in San Francisco and not see someone living on the pavement. Then there’s the eye opening Tenderloin district situated in one of America’s wealthiest cities, a place that really epitomises the major divide between rich and poor. Trust me these are the parts they don’t show in the movies. I had my eyes opened to streets lined with sleeping bags, men, women and children of all ages. It is only when I returned home I realised the issue wasn’t just on american streets, it was here in the country I grew up in. Homelessness is a growing issue in Northern Ireland, and one many people are refusing to see. According to Northern Ireland Research and Statistics agency, as many as 5000 declared themselves as homeless. This is a growing epidemic, more than any of us choose to realise.

The Real Reasons for Homelessness

There is this growing stigma among people who believe that anyone on the streets have made the choice to be there or worse still, deserve to be there. Do not make your mind up about people you don’t know, you don’t know their situation. Some of us are blinded by believing it is not our problem and that these people are not like us. It is up to you how you view the world, I always turn the situation around and think what if that was me, would anybody care? Would anybody help? Homelessness can happen to even the richest of this world, it can just take one bad turn, both in and out of our control and you could be living on the streets. We are all human aren’t we? When talking about equality this includes every human being, not just those of us that have homes... So is it not fair that they are included in the conversation?

It is Possible !

We should not live in a world where people are forced out on the streets with no option of having a roof over their head. Homelessness has been described as quite often not the fault of the individual but the fault of the government. Finland is the one country who I believe have got it right and the answer is so simple, ‘give homes to homeless’. Juha Kaakinen, who has led much of the work on “housing first” in Finland, explains they view people having homes as a basic human right. In the UK homes are given to people as a reward for being addiction free or engaging in services to improve their well being. Finland have taken the reverse unconditional approach and as a result have had astounding social and economic benefits! There has been better engagement with recovery services as well as the treatment of mental health, not only that but crime rates have decreased, there are more beds in hospitals and the government actually saves more money! A bit of a no brainer you would think? To me I can only hope one day this can be implemented in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

What Can You Do?

Currently I am proud to call myself a member of an amazing Belfast Based charity called Shelter NI. Who’s mission is ‘To promote and facilitate the provision of sufficient decent and affordable homes to end long term homelessness and eliminate poor housing’ . If you think this is something you would want to help with, go check out their instagram @shelterni! They often post dates to sign up for street collections, or if you want to become a fully fledged volunteer just check out their website. For the price of a cup of coffee or an hour of your time, you could be changing someones life. Why don’t we spread a little kindness, there’s nothing more empowering to me than helping those who truly need it ♥