Thursday, 22 September 2011

Homelessness and the Great North Run

The Cyrenians is a North East charity working with homeless people. This week they published research commissioned from Northumbria University about how adults become homeless. They trained homeless people to interview 82 other homeless people about their experiences.

It seems there are two distinct routes into homelessness, 'lifelong' and a 'life events' pathways. The former pathway is about disadvantage all through life - 24% had difficulties reading and writing at school; 24% were bullied at school; 25% had been in care as children or adolescents. Parental addictions, domestic violence and traumatic experiences in childhood, especially ones involving violence all figure heavily in the recollections of these homeless adults.

The 'life events' pathway is more about adults who have good childhood experiences but run into crises as adults. For example 80% had had their own home at some point; 70% had experienced financial problems such as being unable to pay bills; 65% had been in a long term relationship and 50% had children. However the majority had a problem with drugs and half a problem with alcohol. The common story was of alcohol or drug misuse triggered by financial difficulties ending with loss of job, relationship and home.

Most of us have several social networks for example family, friends, work colleagues, social contacts e.g. sports club or team, former friends (e.g. people we knew at school and keep in touch with) who would help us if we needed help. Typically homeless adults have lost all their social networks, they are entirely alone. Perhaps none more so than young people leaving care who frequently have no network at all.

So more reaons why Children North East support for children, young people and families is necessary to improve childhood experiences, prevent family breakdown and contrbute to preventing homelessness.

Great North Run

Huge thanks to the 40 runners who raised money for Children North East by running the Great North Run last Sunday. We welcomed finishers with cups of tea, chocolate bars and heartfelt congratulations. Every year I am overwhelmed by anyone's ability to run 13 miles - some looked as though they had just had a brisk walk to post a letter, though others were clearly suffering. I am personally grateful to every single one of you.

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