Helping the Homeless in Bristol


I walk past this sleeping bag every day on my way to work and it’s becoming a more common sight

Homelessness across Britain has dramatically risen over the last few years and the city of Bristol is no different. People begging and sleeping on the streets is now a common sight in the city.

Homelessness charity Shelter recently reported that homelessness across the whole of Britain is increasing year on year with 320,000 people reported homeless in 2018. This is an increase of more than 13,000 compared to 2017. Bristol’s recent official rough sleeper count recorded 82 people living on the streets – this is four less than last year but this doesn’t account for those sleeping in unsafe buildings, vehicles or sofa-surfing.

There any many misconceptions surrounding the homeless, with assumptions sometimes made that those on the streets have brought their situation on themselves through addiction. While some rough sleepers do suffer from substance abuse, this cannot be said for all.

One man on the street that I spoke to, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was simply a case of losing his job and not being able to pay the “crippling” rents. Many of the homeless have moved to the area with a limited support network and so have no-one to turn to when they get into difficulty. Rising rents and a lack of affordable housing are some of the main issues that have contributed to the rising levels of homelessness in Bristol – the average house price is £300,000 with rents regularly pushing £1,000 a month.

I recently visited Help Bristol’s Homeless in Bedminster where founder Jasper Thompson is converting shipping containers into accommodation for the homeless. Bristol philanthropist Jasper, who works as a bodyguard in his spare time, has been developing an innovative way to help.

The charity, which was founded in 2017, renovates shipping containers to turn them into accommodation for the homeless. The site on Malago Road currently has seven people living on site who help maintain the containers, while rebuilding their lives. Thompson believes that providing people with a roof over their heads is the first step to helping the homeless .

Some of the containers at Help Bristol’s Homeless

The containers, some of which are donated and others bought via fundraising, have been fitted out and look indistinguishable from the inside with a fully equipped kitchen, shower, toilet facilities and a bed. Those who live on site all help out with the refit with tradespeople offering electrical and plumbing services for free.

I spoke to Rob Earnshaw who has been living on the site since it opened in 2017 and now helps manage the site as well as doing the cooking. He became homeless after a combination of mental breakdowns and heavy drinking and calls the project “affirming” and “diversional therapy” from the situation he’s in. Earnshaw now intends to continue helping others with the night bus the charity is using to help get people off the street. The double-decker bus has been fitted with beds for 12 people and will allow users to access the toilet, shower and breakfast facilities at Malago Road. More information about the charity can be found here.

Below is a quick interview with Jasper Thompson.


Book Reviews

Oh my god, what a complete Aisling!

I absolutely loved this book by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen. It tells the story of 28-year-old Aisling, a small town girl at heart, who tries to survive in the big smoke of Dublin.

She is hilarious and as so many reviews have said, if you don’t know a girl like Aisling, it’s probably because you are one. I could see so much of myself in her – being a smallish-town girl myself with some Irish blood in me. Aisling is so sensible – the kind of girl that will always take a jacket with her (that sounds familiar to me) and definitely wouldn’t ever get a parking fine. I even had a Forever Friends duvet just like her. She gets herself into hilarious situations that had me laughing out loud on the train.  She’s such an endearing character that you’ll learn to love – an Irish Bridget Jones for the 21st century.

Anyone who has grown up in the country and moved to a big city will recognise the characters in Aisling’s hometown and remember the struggles as you try and shake off the country girl habits. Having a lot of Irish family meant that I understood a lot of the jokes and slang but I’m not going to lie, I did need to look up a few, but I now feel confident that I can speak the lingo the next time I visit the Emerald Isle. I can’t wait to read the sequel – there’s also talk of a film – as this was a hilarious and heart-warming read.

Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash