CAROLINE ANSELL MP: A significant rise in homelessness
It seems John Lewis and Marks and Spencer are in the running for the most popular - portraying a comforting and homely vision of love and friendship we all cherish during the festive period.
But, as the cold winter nights draw in, I can’t help but think of all those without a home and without a family to enjoy this joyous time because homelessness is a major problem across the UK, and Eastbourne is not insulated from it.
A homelessness review found there was a significant rise in the number of Eastbourne households becoming homeless between 2014 and 2015, particularly involving women and children.
There are many reasons for homelessness and it’s rarely just a matter of bricks and mortar.
Family breakdown, debt, drug and alcohol misuse, leaving prison, mental health problems and domestic violence are major causes.
In Eastbourne, the fact we are a coastal town attracting the young homeless also makes for added pressure.
So it is comforting that from December 1 until February 28, the Eastbourne Winter Night Shelter will be welcoming those without a place to stay.
Run by the Kingdom Way Trust, with help provided by several Eastbourne churches, it offers supervised overnight accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people.
Around 300 volunteers, myself included, make sure the shelter offers the best help it can.
It is a tremendously important service committed to the community of Eastbourne, helping people get a warm meal and bed on cold nights and its importance cannot be underestimated, especially at Christmas time.
Like everyone, my heart goes out to those in this situation because being homeless is a devastating experience but it’s also a complex to tackle.
Offering a home to someone in the depths of a personal crisis will rarely work without support from family or friends, in addition to social services.
Sadly, it is often that very estrangement from loved ones that causes so much heartache and the spiral down to living on the streets.
In Eastbourne, I think we need to think about having the Nightshelter operate all year round as a ‘first port of call’, so the right support can then be more readily identified and implemented.
This will be a big leap and will require money and expertise as well as goodwill, but perhaps now is the time to think about whether it could and should be done.
Please let me know your thoughts.