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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Hope springs

July 01 2021
Our writer questions when it’ll be over… © Mat Amp Our writer questions when it’ll be over… © Mat Amp

Finding oneself caught somewhere between optimism, despair and hope as lockdown comes to an end. By Mat Amp

Greetings to everyone. I hope this finds you well. If you’re feeling anxious at the prospect of the world kicking back into action, believe me, you are not alone.

Things are kicking back into life like city lights at dusk, one window at a time, until soon, if the vaccine goes to plan, it’s gonna be mid-town Manhattan on a Saturday night, frenzied neon blinking at the dark.

It may be especially overwhelming for those who face an uncertain future with their housing situation. For some, the pandemic has been an oasis of calm, the eye in a furious storm, a soothing balm on the chaotic wound of life. For them, the end of lockdown signals uncertainty not security and they are left wondering: ‘Are we going to get forgotten all over again?’

People have lauded the Everyone In scheme for its inclusivity. It’s true, people with no access to public funds, immigrants and those with no local connection were, for once, not ignored. But before we get carried away let’s ask this simple question: Why now? Well, the answer to that is obvious – the pandemic, so let’s ask this one instead: Why not before now?

One thing that Everyone In has proved is that it’s possible to get everyone off the streets if the will is there. It’s just unfortunate that the will was only there because the government wanted to protect the public, not because of some benevolent epiphany or sudden realisation that we all benefit as a society when the most vulnerable amongst us are not forgotten.

And as the threat of Covid-19 recedes and the wheels of consumer industry start to spin once more, the fear is that the merciless gears of the machine will not stop for anything or anyone trapped between them. The government will start to talk about paying the bill and it’s the poorest, as always, that will be made to cough up.

All we can do is hope that enough people learnt enough lessons during the pandemic to plant some seed of change, after more than a decade of brutal austerity that has done a total Hobin Rood on the country – Hobin Rood is Robin Hood in reverse… robbing from the poor to give to the rich in the form of quantitative easing, a policy that has rewarded banks for the shameless fraud that brought the global economy to its knees in 2008.

Despite the reasons for anxiety and concern, there is reason for hope. As far as I see it, and this is just my opinion, the charity sector has worked out how to do things over the past decade, rejecting the top-down, hand-out Victorian charity model and instead using co-production as a key stone for building a model aimed at giving people with lived experience of homelessness the platform to progress.

For the best part of the last year my working days have been spent coordinating an incredibly innovative community journalism project. It’s a project that was designed to give people with experience of homelessness a platform to express themselves in order to inform services and, through our website (groundswell.org.uk), the public. This has a positive impact on both policy and public opinion.

The project, led by Groundswell in partnership with On Our Radar, currently has 14 reporters with lived experience across the country sending in reports about their experiences during the pandemic. Funded by NHSE and the National Lottery Community Fund, it’s provided policy makers with unfiltered feedback from the people who have experience of trying to navigate the healthcare system without a safe and secure place to call home.

This week we found out that Groundswell’s bid for Comic Relief Change Makers funding has come through, effectively expanding the project to include more reporters amongst other measures designed to put the voice of those experiencing homelessness at the centre of policy making. It’s stuff like this that makes me start to believe that there is hope, which in turn makes me feel less anxious about the end of the lockdown. At the end of the day that anxiety is about not knowing what is next but that doesn’t mean that what is next is necessarily going to be bad. Here’s to hope.

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