Teens taking action over homelessness

Some of the young people at Walthamstow Village Festival, where Streets Aren't My Home was officially launched
Some of the young people at Walthamstow Village Festival, where Streets Aren’t My Home was officially launched last month

Youngsters launch campaign to raise awareness of rough sleeping

As rough sleeping continues to rise in Waltham Forest, a group of young people are putting it upon themselves to take action against homelessness.

Over the last few months youngsters aged 16-21 years have been gathering at Waltham Forest Community Hub to devise a local campaign that they hope will both raise awareness of the problem locally and offer practical solutions to reducing rough sleeping.

The result is Streets Aren’t My Home (SAMH), which was launched at Walthamstow Village Festival last month. Talking to the Echo Omar Idrissi, 21, explained that homelessness was a problem not often discussed by young people, despite its disproportionate impact on them and its links to other social issues.

Omar said: “We did a survey of teenagers of what topics they felt were important and we found that homelessness was the least talked about issue.

“We tried to find out why that was and we found there were these negative stereotypes around it – we were surprised it wasn’t a bigger issue.”

The youngsters set out to challenge some of the misconceptions about homeless people and decided to launch their campaign. To help learn more about the issue they visited local charities Christian Kitchen and Plates For You.

Nishieka Bramble, 17, told the Echo: “We want to raise awareness but also find a solution in the long-term. We have spoken to some homeless people and the reasons they are homeless are all different, they don’t all have the same problems.”

The latest figures for rough sleeping in Waltham Forest, published by the Greater London Authority last month, show that it has increased by 46% in the last year, with 137 rough sleepers recorded between April 2018 and March 2019 compared to 94 in the same period the previous year.

Omar said: “The people we have spoken to felt like they didn’t have an identity. The stigma around homelessness is that it is their own fault, but then you realise that it is down to their individual circumstances.

“Once you are homeless you become vulnerable to getting involved with crime and drugs and it becomes more difficult to get out of it.”

The determination and enthusiasm of the group helped them win a £600 donation from charity London Youth, to whom they had to make a pitch for why their campaign deserved funding. People can now buy SAMH wristbands, T-shirts and other items to help support the campaign, while the group is asking for donations from the community to help stock ‘care kits’ of everyday items that can be given to rough sleepers.

The group has also visited the Houses of Parliament to learn more about how to engage with political leaders. Hamza Abdulaahi, a youth worker at Waltham Forest Community Hub, said: “We will be talking to Waltham Forest Council. They are coming up with a new housing strategy and they are meeting us to talk about their plans. Changing policy is a big dream but it is something to work towards.”

Find out more about the SAMH campaign:
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