The experience of homeless people during the COVID-19 is about as varied and traumatic as is possible, says the founder of homeless charity Foot Works.
In an interview with #ChamberBreakers’ — hosted by Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK, and Xavier White, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, Richard Cooper talked about what business can do to support this enormous mental health challenge.
“One homeless person was given a roof over his head. When it came for him to leave, it took five weeks to get him out of the bathroom. He’d found a home. He felt comfortable. So he refused to leave his bathroom for five weeks,” said Cooper.
“I've another example of somebody who was given a roof. He left it immediately and wouldn't go back - because it had a letterbox. The thing that drove him to the streets in the first place was that every other letter through the letterbox was a demand. He felt that with another letter box, it was just going to be demand after demand again.”
A recent study of 2,500 people from around the UK carried out by Homeless Link, found that 45% of the homeless had officially been diagnosed with a mental health issue and 80% self-reported some form of mental health problem.
“We have to treat the whole person. We have to treat some of these mental issues,” says Cooper.
“Support the charities working in these areas. I appreciate that many organisations are looking at the way that they do business. They're looking at their budgets and they're looking at the finances. But from a CSR point of view all I would ask is: please do not shut the doors on the organisations — particularly in the homeless sector - that need your support.
“As Coronavirus kicks in, we saw an awful lot of government support because it's recognising that I don't necessarily need to live on the streets to be homeless. I could be living in somebodies living room and they might let me use that for two months. We've got examples of guys and girls living in cars. There is an old statistic that three million people in the UK were four or five weeks away from not having a rent cheque or a housing cheque. It's less than a week now.
“If you want to continue your mission as a socially responsible organisation or business that provides provisions for the welfare of your team members, then there are ways to help.”
Check out the fifth #ChamberBreakers with Kirrin Medcalf, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall and trans youth worker at Gender Intelligence and the accompanying article, as well as clicking, subscribing, and rating the podcast here.