Thursday, 20 November 2008

New concepts inform the dialogue

Tonight thirty Street Care volunteers met with Mike Freil and Paul Whittingham of the City's Homelessness and Neighbourhood Renewal Team in County Hall, to continue the dialogue which was initiated at the meeting held at City Church back on 7th October.

Mike gave a useful, informative presentation of the professional social workers analysis of the situation of those who are vulnerable and needy in the City. Relatively few sleep rough, on a regular basis, perhaps as few as a dozen, but many more, would be categorised as 'insecurely housed' - occupying a hostel bed, sleeping on a friend's sofa, or in what's generally described as being in accommodation over which they have no control. This concept, new to many, shed valuable light on the people at the centre of concern for both volunteers and professionals.

The perception of some experienced volunteers was that there were greater numbers 'out there', some of whom were so fearful of contact with either the authorities or others in similarly precarious situations, that they managed to avoid official homeless audits. This perception was viewed as a matter for concern and future investigation.

The discussion mapped out some of the key areas of interest where volunteers thought there could be a need for training and support. Mike issued a contact information sheet with all the necessary details of every public service available to people 'insecurely housed' or sleeping rough around the clock. This was a resource requested by volunteers at the previous meeting, and was greatly welcomed by all present.

It was agreed that the next meeting to take place should involved just volunteers, affording them to speak frankly and openly about their practices and their motivations, and the concerns arising for them from the fact that the Christian roots of most involved in Street Caring, although not an issue for those in need, and on the receiving end can be called into question by some in authority. The realm of partnership between faith groups and statutory bodies can be fraught with difficulties which arise from the meeting of different cultures and approaches to addressing the problems of need. Volunteers need an opportunity to affirm their confidence in the value of the contribution they are able to make, as well as acknowledging scope for improvement.