Showing support to care services in your local community

Written by Laura Hillier, Bristol-based Writer 
Mike (Ups & Downs founder) and I recently attended a community meeting about St Anne’s Shelter, which is operated by the homelessness charity St Mungo’s in Bristol. The shelter operates from October-March only, to provide safe and warm spaces for people that would otherwise be sleeping rough throughout the winter. The purpose of the community meeting was to give local residents a summary of the shelter’s work during the previous winter, give information about plans for this winter, and offer the opportunity to have any questions or concerns answered.

The success stories that service staff told us about from last year were truly moving. The shelter had accommodated nearly sixty people, with many of these supported to move-on to the next step of their journey. Feedback from users of the shelter also highlighted the impact of the service on their health, confidence and emotional wellbeing. It was particularly interesting to hear service staff talk about the difference in approach taken at St Anne’s, compared to other dormitory shelters. Many shelters only open overnight, which means that people staying are required to leave early in the morning. However, St Anne’s operates on a 24/7 basis, which seems to offer something different in terms of what was described as a “decompression period”. Rough sleeping involves a near-perpetual state of stress, with no chance to rest properly or safely. By staying at St Anne’s, people have the opportunity to get some much-needed rest and breathing space to work on the issues they are facing. Being open throughout the day has also allowed people to interact, communicate and connect with others in a positive way.

So why did we go along to this meeting? Firstly, we were interested to hear about the wonderful work being done by St Mungo’s in our area. We also felt that unfortunately, there are a lot of negative stereotypes attached to people facing homelessness. Homelessness can happen to anyone – often as a result of circumstances beyond an individual’s control – and we feel strongly that homeless people should be included in our concept of community. Stereotypes about homelessness can cause stigma and ostracism from other members of the community, which sadly can further worsen someone’s mental health. By hearing first-hand about the brilliant work being done at St Anne’s, I also felt more empowered to challenge some of these preconceptions when they arise. It should go without saying that it’s important to support the most vulnerable people in society, and getting involved with the services in your local community is one way to help.

Article written by Laura Hillier

You can find out more about St Mungo’s and the work they do here:

St Anne's House Shelter - © Copyright Neil Owen

Above Image by Neil Owen

Featured image by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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