It seems that every day there is a ‘… day’ to mark either incredible people (teachers, health professionals, space explorers etc) or a specifically dysfunctional aspect of modern (and not so modern) life.
Do they make any difference? Don’t misunderstand me. Homelessness matters. And so does mental health, whose ‘day’ also happens to fall on 10th October. To us at Your Own Place, homelessness is our bread and butter. We live and breathe its spectre every day.
Except that we sit firmly in the prevention agenda. Our aim, my aim, is that the young people we all support in our various ways should never have to be homeless. It must never be a right of passage for a care-leaver to have their possessions bundled up in a plastic bin liner just before their 18th birthday because their isn’t a coherent plan for what happens when the state exits.
People of all ages get in a muddle with their bills and their rent. It’s a normal part of the ebb and flow of life. I believe there should be a genuine, appropriate and accessible safety net that means it never gets so bad that a person is homeless.
And of course the young people we work with rarely sleep rough – the most visible form of homelessness. This is one of the many reasons we don’t use that negative, stereotyping and damaging imagery. I have of course known young people to live rough in tents, caravans, in woods and more commonly between friends’ sofas and squats. Thankfully there is a marginally more effective safety net if you are young. So, that’s why we work with young people. Because their resilience, astonishing determination and belief in a future makes our job easy.
Together we can prevent homelessness. So, if one day helps us all to focus just for a minute, to share how amazing young people are at avoiding homelessness through their strengths and that of their community, then it’s a day well-spent.