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 .
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.