Homelessness is on the rise, with more than 300,000 people in Britain homeless today – that’s one in every 200 people
It’s easy to presume that a person is only homeless if they’re sleeping under a worn-out sleeping bag in a shop doorway, wondering how they’ll afford their next meal or hot drink. The reality is that homelessness is a complex and misunderstood crisis.
‘The vast majority of homeless people are actually families or single people who are not sleeping rough, but instead are living in temporary, poor-quality accommodation such as B&Bs or hostels, harming their health and well-being in the process,’ explains Vicky Hines, Birmingham hub manager at Shelter UK, a charity dedicated to fighting homelessness.
‘Homelessness can feel very isolating, especially when temporary accommodation is far away from a person’s local community, support networks and friends. Children can find the whole experience hugely traumatic, and we’ve seen how seriously this can impact their education and harm their overall life chances.
’Recent reports reveal that 30,000 single-parent families were made homeless in 2017, according to Shelter – that’s at least 30,000 children that found themselves without a stable place to call home. Since 2016, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has given more than £300,000 to charities fighting homelessness across England and Wales; this includes a recent grant of £60,000 to Shelter Birmingham.
‘We have specialist local hubs at key locations across the country,’ Hines says. ‘This includes Shelter Birmingham. Thanks to the MCF’s funding, we can now fund an expert advice worker to reach hundreds of people in the local community who are in danger of homelessness or threatened with repossession.’
The MCF has also tackled homelessness within the masonic community. Ronnie, a Freemason and a successful head of recruitment, lost his home after personal addictions took control of his life.
‘My life was in turmoil – you couldn’t make it up,’ Ronnie says. ‘Everything came tumbling down and I ended up living in a tent in a wood for eight months. I was drinking heavily to keep the cold out at night and was in a bad way. In desperation, I moved into a rental property without any funds or deposit. I hoped I would be able to get some urgent support from the government, but it took so long that I faced being evicted.’
A Visiting Volunteer from Ronnie’s Province helped him through this difficult period. ‘He got in touch with the MCF on my behalf, and within 48 hours, an emergency grant was paid into my landlord’s bank account to cover my deposit and rent for a year. The MCF gave me the breathing space to get my life back on track. I’m eternally grateful.’