Many of you have written to me about homelessness, so I thought I would share this excellent initiative with you.
Bristol has several shelters where homeless people can find a bed for the night, but there is nowhere for them to go during the day. I discussed this problem in a recent meeting with Paul Blake, a homeless man campaigning for a new day centre in Bristol.
When Paul was first sleeping rough as a young man, he was helped back on his feet by a local charity with a purpose-built day centre, where he could get a shower, wash his clothes and get advice. Several years later, he became homeless again and found everything had changed. The charity that had helped him years ago has now closed down and other support services have disappeared.
In his words, “Nowadays, there’s no one place to go, where you can talk to others in your situation and if you want to eat, wash your clothes and access support services, you have to spend hours walking across Bristol. The result of this is that I now spend up to fifteen hours a day being moved on from various public spots across Bristol which offer shelter from the cold or heat, until my bed at a night shelter becomes open late in the evening.”
To change this situation, Paul has started a campaign called Right to Shelter, petitioning the council to provide a day centre for Bristol’s homeless community so once again there can be somewhere where all their needs can be met in one place. I think it is a fantastic idea, and Paul’s commitment to improving our city is inspiring.
If the petition is signed by at least 3,500 people who live, work or study in Bristol, then it may go to a full council debate. I hope you will join me in signing the petition and help Bristol’s homeless people get the help they need.