Week in, week out, staff and volunteers at Caring in Bristol work in many ways to move the city closer to solving homelessness. This might involve supporting individuals to navigate their way through complex systems that feel like barriers to a solution. Or it might be working with colleagues in other organisations or sectors to change things for the better. Homelessness is complex and takes many forms, so our responses are necessarily diverse, with care and respect for those affected by it.
What homelessness is really like
We’ve met countless people facing or experiencing a homelessness crisis. We’ve provided advice, information, support, resources, and an opportunity to talk about the pressures that they face. We know what homelessness is like. We listen. We listen very carefully. One thing that we hear and observe, very consistently, is that they would never choose to be in a homelessness crisis.
Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice
Sometimes there are not enough housing options available to people. Sometimes those options are not even a good fit. And when options are beyond their financial means, too scarce, too risky, or completely untenable, then being able to choose is an impossibility. We’ve never met anyone who feels that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. We’ve never met anyone who would ever want this to be a choice. Ever.
We could focus on blaming an individual faced with inadequate options to secure, safe, and affordable housing for themselves or their family. This is a distraction from the real solutions needed to solve homelessness. Instead, we could invest more energy into building up the systems that we all depend on to provide better housing options; affordable, stable, appropriate housing options – enough for every individual and family that needs it. This is in the hands of the decision makers; we need to remind them that homelessness is not inevitable when meaningful options exist.
Many things in life are a choice. But when homelessness is your only option to choose from, what kind of choice is that?