Meeting a Rising Need
Homelessness in all its forms is rising across London. This all-year shelter in Southall is one local community’s response to what one leading founder called ‘the most visible form of social injustice’. According to London’s Poverty Profile, street homelessness, also called rough sleeping, is recorded as has having ‘increased every year since 2007’ and it being ‘one of the most extreme forms of poverty’.
The Night Shelter in Southall opened for the first time on Wednesday 6 January 2016 and has opened every evening since. It provides for 14 rough sleepers who have been found and verified by the Ealing Street and Community Outreach Team. It is run by the charity Hope for Southall Street Homeless and welcomes only those rough sleepers found in Southall. Ealing is in the first group of 8 of the 32 London boroughs with the highest levels of homelessness.
Addressing deep social needs
The full challenge for rough sleepers is in overcoming multiple barriers of health, liability to rely on misuse of alcohol and drugs and resulting social exclusion. The shelter plays a critical role in combining accommodation, meals and washing facilities on site with the immediate access to health and addiction services and treatment. The shelter’s users, or guests, are required to engage with these services with the support of their caseworker and volunteers to ensure registration with a GP and follow-up appointments. Similar support helps guests to deal with addiction problems, through the Recovery and Intervention Service Ealing (RISE), commissioned by the borough.
A Project suited to Southall
Since the 1950s, Southall has become home to large movements of people from the region of the Punjab in northern India and other parts of the sub-continent. Over 2 generations, many hundreds of families have settled and contributed to civil society, to business and to the arts, music and film, both in Southall and nationally. More recently, however, those following earlier generations with the expectation of finding work and staying, even if only temporarily, have come up against the tightened restrictions on migrant workers for entry into work and access to welfare. Of the 60 longer-stay guests in the shelter, over 90% are experiencing this further exclusion, creating a deep sense of personal failure at the core of their social problems.