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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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April 01 2023
Emdad (far left, second row) with members of Docklands Community Initiative. © Emdad Rahman Emdad (far left, second row) with members of Docklands Community Initiative. © Emdad Rahman

Cooperation and coordination is key for local, smaller homeless services and outreach projects. Their survival and efficiency should be admired and serves as a template moving forward. Words by Emdad Rahman.

Now we're a few months into the new year, it's a good time for grassroots projects to assess how things are going, plan in advance and weigh up how the rest of the year is likely to look for homeless friends.

The winter has seen unprecedented struggles, with rising living costs obliterating communities. Homeless friends have struggled more as the woes of the general public have led to less attention and less support for the most vulnerable.

There are increasing levels of poor mental health among homeless people.

With dwindling resources many organisations have pooled assets to offer services to those who are experiencing homelessness. When you speak to people on the front line they often say that sourcing resources and donations is getting increasingly difficult.

It doesn’t have to be the case if you have an ethos of sharing practises and resources. Fortunately, my experience of working with front line relief groups has put me in touch with selfless people and organisations who are intent on reaching out to communities using various means and methods.

In their own way, these grassroots groups are leading the fight to tackle poverty.

Some are laden with donations but may not have the local knowledge or expertise to organise distribution of community aid, whilst others may not wish to venture down that path and are content with simply passing on donations to groups that are already established and doing an excellent job.

This is a useful approach which ensures a smooth system of genuine and effective relief response. A case in point is Bookbike recently receiving 20 sleeping bags from Rough Sleeper Co, Australia, to share with homeless friends and people sleeping rough in east London.

To ensure continuous service, Bookbike and the Kind Counter have teamed up with local partners like the Docklands Community Initiative to save time and ensure donations reach their intended demographic. With Bookbike, the recipients have the added bonus of a book and food parcel if they choose.

This cooperation is working, and the sharing of resources means people with the know-how are able to deliver aid and goods effectively to the people who matter the most.

This is precisely why I believe 2023 will be a year local groups will rely greatly on pooling ideas, talent and resources to achieve community objectives.

For many this year, things already look bleak. In fact, at least half a dozen homeless friends I catch up with on a weekly basis have intimated that their mental health has been affected a great deal by the cost of living crisis, leaving them unable to make ends meet.

Those with addictions are really feeling the pinch. As part of the Bookbike outreach, I collect food from Humdum and Docklands Community Initiative and regularly prepare parcels at Company Drinks.

An NHS nurse who used to visit me at Company Drinks to collect parcels and refer mental health patients – some of them experiencing homelessness – for food support has now resorted to seeking the very same help and is sofa surfing.

This is indicative of how far we have fallen. The support of local organisations is only a sticking plaster. Longer term, there needs to be a proper national and local strategy in place to ensure communities are supported effectively and appropriately.

Not everyone who needs support is unemployed and unwell. Many working people are facing horrendous financial plight.

We are experiencing circumstances that have left many struggling even before our communities feel the full force of a recession and rising living costs.

Times are hard and things may have to get harder before they get any better. 

In the meantime let’s count our blessings and thank our lucky stars for our friendly neighbourhood projects.

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