Last week our theme for our weekly “what’s in the news?” was homelessness.
Year 6, led by our Rights Respecting Ambassadors saw this as an important theme as it links to article 27 – “every child has the right to a standard of living that meets their physical, social and mental needs. The Government must support families who struggle to provide this.”
We had great discussions around it. Our Rights Respecting Ambassadors decided they would help us find out more about how homelessness is dealt with in County Durham as they did not like the thought of people struggling alone. After some research we found a local organisation called DASH who help the homeless in our area.
More information about them are available on their website: https://www.dashorg.co.uk/
We contacted a representative, called Trevor, from DASH with our questions. He promptly replied and we were happy with how proactive this organisation was in helping the homeless in our area. Here is what he had to say in response to our questions:
Is it possible as a solution to buy abandoned shops or houses and renovate them so the homeless can stay for a night or two?
Sometimes this has been done but it isn’t effective as a short-term measure because it’s too costly.
DASH has bought houses within a scheme called ‘Empty Homes Community Grants Programme’ to bring back into use empty properties for people to live in but it is not something that could be done nationally unfortunately.
What charities are there in Seaham for homeless people out there other than Dash? Do you work alongside them?
We are not aware of any charities in Seaham but we take referrals for our accommodation from anyone and would be happy to work with anyone as appropriate.
Can you find job opportunities to homeless people?
The people we support once they are living with us are sign-posted to other agencies to help them find work or training but not all are successful in finding either.
How can we decrease the amount of homeless people?
Nationally there needs to be more affordable housing. There also needs to be more support around avoidance of becoming homeless. A reduction in poverty, mental health problems and substance misuse would also help reduce homelessness.
Do homeless people have somewhere they can go to get free food and clothes?
Various charities do give out food and clothing. There are many local food banks. We collect non-perishable food donations to give to our new residents along with cleaning products and toiletries. These go into what is called a ‘Welcome Pack’. Perhaps your school could organise food donations to go into our Welcome Packs or to go to your local foodbank?
Are people who sleep homeless on the street at risk?
Yes, very much so. They are at risk of poor physical health, mental health issues, loneliness and a range of other risks and conditions. These add to the reasons why they are homeless in the first place.
Do you make links with the government?
Yes, a part of our work is supported by Durham County Council who receive their money from the Government. We work in conjunction with Durham County Council to help relieve homelessness in the county.
Instead of money we donate food? What else could we donate to support homelessness in our area?
The best thing that can be done to support the reduction in homelessness is to link up with a charity to help across the issues. There are national charities that you can support such as Crisis and Shelter.
At DASH we receive donations of non-perishable food but we can also use single bedding, pillows, towels, tea towels, cutlery, crockery and kitchen utensils and appliances. We can also use small furniture which is suitable for single people (chests of drawers, bedside tables, tables & chairs etc.) and white goods (fridges, freezers).
How long do people have to be homeless before they are allow support?
The sooner the better, there are no time limits. We take people who are at risk of homelessness (not actually homeless at the moment), people who are homeless and living with friends/relatives (sofa surfing) and long term homeless people including rough sleepers.
Is Dash a charity?
DASH is a charity as well as being a Registered Provider of Housing (Housing Association).
How many homeless people do you help a year?
During 2019 DASH received 734 referrals from people who needed housing. Out of those 734 we housed 80 people.
Where are most of the homeless people coming from?
86% from County Durham
10% from neighboring counties
4% from the rest of the UK.
Thank you for your questions. If you would like to know anything else or if you would like someone from DASH to come to your school and talk to you, please let us know.
Trevor and all at DASH 😊