There has been much in the news of late about the worsening condition of the nation's homeless including those in Dorset. "Every day my situation gets worse" - Mel, one of Poole's homeless and a Routes to Roots' client, told the BBC in March. "The Untold - No Fixed Abode" later recounted Mel's story of going from parking for work in one multi storey to sleeping rough in another.
Government figures published on 25 February show that the number of people who sleep rough each night in England has more than doubled since 2010. According to the statistics, 3,569 people were estimated by local authorities to be sleeping rough on any one night in 2015. This represents a 30% increase on the 2014 estimate of 2,744, and a 102% increase since 2010, when the figure stood at 1,768. The South West saw the biggest percentage increase in rough sleeping since last year: 41%. However, without the critical support and temporary accommodation offered by homelessness services across England, Homeless Link believes this number could have been much higher and warns that the future for these services locally remains uncertain thanks to a range of pressures, including reduced local authority funding, substantial changes to the welfare system and a housing crisis.
Routes to Roots has worked with homeless and vulnerably housed people in Poole since 2000. The charity aims not only to provide basic necessities, such as hot food, clothing and sleeping bags, but also to offer practical help, advice and support and activities, which boost self-confidence and develop skills.
In 2015-16 R2R registered 246 different individuals at its four drop-ins at Skinner Street URC: some returning on a regular basis, some only a few times.
It is now a year since Routes to Roots was able to move three rough sleepers into Amos House, its first supported accommodation. R2R is very pleased to say that the three are doing well (and keeping their home clean and tidy!). Volunteers continue to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support to the three as they take this first step back into society, with the aim of eventually helping them to find independent housing.
D, one of the tenants, comments: "It’s like magic. It’s wonderful. I’ve been homeless for five years, longer off and on. I want to be able to move on after a while so someone else can enjoy this place." Although bought by Green Pastures, a Christian social enterprise, Amos House is an on-going cost to Routes to Roots as it is responsible for upkeep, maintenance and other management expenses. Raising money to meet these commitments is a major fundraising task and any funds offered towards this would be much appreciated - as was recognised by a player from AFC Bournemouth who made an amazing donation specifically to help keep this accommodation going.
Funding is an on-going concern for Routes to Roots. The charity relies for all its income on support from the local community and by applying for grants. It receives no fixed financial support from the local authorities.
Routes to Roots will continue to provide a hot breakfast for rough sleepers at the Fisherman's Café on Poole Quayside over this winter. Last year the charity offered this meal for 18 weeks, sustaining 52 individual homeless people, an increase of 11% over 2014-15. Each breakfast costs £4.50 to provide so this provision alone cost the charity £4054.50 (901 breakfasts eaten).
If you have some time and would like to volunteer, or become a member or make a donation, please contact the R2R Office or visit the website:
Skinner Street URC, Poole BH15 1QR
Tel: 01202 667880 / 07901 387643
One easy way for individuals to show support is when you do any shopping online, whether for train tickets, flowers, household goods or presents. You raise money for R2R at absolutely no cost to yourself by visiting your favourite retailers through 'Easy Fund Raising'. Log on to the site, register yourself and the charity, Routes to Roots, that you would like to support and start shopping. Every time you buy from one of the businesses on their list, R2R will receive a percentage of what you spend. For ease of access, add the address to your bookmark bar: http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/routestoroots