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14 Jun 2016

Westminster Homeless Action Together

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Petra Salva is Director of Street Homelessness and Outreach services at St Mungo’s. Here she explains why St Mungo’s is partnering with other charities and organisations in July’s innovative Westminster Homeless Action Together to help end street homelessness.

“My starting point is this. I believe rough sleeping is harmful. It’s bad for the people rough sleeping, for their health, for their mental well being , dignity and respect. People sleeping rough are in a situation which can spiral out of control and it leads to premature death. The average age of death of someone in the UK who’s been homeless is 47. I have seen first hand the damage it does to individuals, their families , friends and to communities and it’s just not ok to walk on by and do nothing about it.

“Local communities are impacted because people sleeping rough have to survive on the pavement in the locality in makeshift conditions which might end up causing problems for others living or working in the area.

“Rough sleeping is a very visible and acute sign of poverty and local communities where this is happening a lot can be left feeling that people are being forgotten, or marginalised, and communities then struggle with what to do and how to help, individually and collectively.

“A person sleeping rough in your local street should make you question what can you or should you do about it. I often get asked: should I buy food for the person? Give them money, give a sleeping bag, take them into a spare room, pay for a backpackers’ hostel for the night,  tell anyone or ring an ambulance if they’re looking really unwell?  Ring the council, or try to put them in contact with a local homelessness service?

“Sometimes my answers to these questions leave people feeling grateful, sometimes frustrated and more often people are still left feeling that there must be more they can do to help. That’s why I am urging people to get involved in Westminster Homeless Action Together.”

Read the full story on the Westminster Homeless Action Together website

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