Our Caring at Christmas project was a great success. With the support of our amazing donors, business and catering partners, staff and volunteers we provided some of the most vulnerable people in Bristol with a warm welcome, support and restaurant quality food.
It was our aim that no one should be left out in the cold during Christmas 2022. We welcomed 412 guests to our pop-up centre at Trinity Arts Centre; between them they made 1028 visits, enjoying the food, community and festive atmosphere. Our Christmas work is just one aspect of our work that we know is vital in our city during the winter months. The experience of homelessness bites hard and its effects are brutally amplified during the winter months. As we enter a new year, in addition to the usual challenges of winter weather, there is the cost-of-living crisis that we have all felt. This is experienced disproportionately throughout our city and is already pushing people to the brink of homelessness… and over the edge.
Our other projects continue with their hard work. Bristol Goods, our food project, provides affordable pop-up shops in areas of Bristol which have been identified by the Social Market Foundation as food deserts – places where residents have relatively limited access to affordable foods. The cost-of-living crisis has highlighted the pressures that lead to homelessness. Every week we have conversations with Bristolians who are terrified that they will lose their home when the range of options available to maintain even a basic standard of living are rapidly dwindling.
The “choice between eating and heating” is now a commonplace term in news reports, but we are seeing a picture far more complex with an alarming number of people worrying about being able to afford to remain in their home. These terrible choices occur when people are out of options provided by the housing system. Bristol Goods helps to relieve the pressure by helping people move back from the disaster of homelessness and preventing it from happening in the first place. Demand for their work continues to grow, and as winter sets in so will the increased need for their support in the communities where they operate. Each month, Bristol Goods holds a “Social Eating” community event. As well as the positive experience of eating together as a community, our teams are on hand to provide information and support that helps to prevent homelessness before things reach a crisis point.
Our project, Early Doors, also works to prevent homelessness in Bristol. They are on hand at our Bristol Goods food pop-ups to provide the advice that is now essential to navigate the current situation. A situation where some groups of people are affected disproportionately – particularly minority groups where the risks and rates of homelessness are higher. Along with their project partner, housing advice service CHAS, Early Doors have been providing advice, support, and community-based workshops to equip people with the knowledge and skills to tackle their housing issues, and guard against the threat of homelessness. Their work also gives voice to those in precarious housing situations; recently their co-production group contributed to the consultation on the housing allocation scheme in Bristol.
The young people of Bristol are one group of people who are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Project Z, our youth project, supports young people who have experienced homelessness, assisting them on their journey to securing a stable home and in finding solutions to the issues that stand in the way of this. Our youth practitioners can work with their young people over a longer-term, but the Christmas period can be a difficult and painful time for them. As children, we rely on adults to make Christmas a special tie of year. For a young person who is affected by homelessness, perhaps living in temporary or precarious accommodation, Christmas can give rise to feelings of isolation and not belonging. While the support provided is year-round, the team are aware that different times of the year give rise to different issues. Their person-centred approach means that their response is sensitive to whatever their young people are experiencing.
The whole staff and volunteer team at Caring in Bristol knows that the work that will continue to be delivered over the winter period is needed more than ever to prevent people reaching a housing crisis, and to help them rebuild their lives after experiencing homelessness. With the tools that we have created such as The Caring Handbook and the Housing Support Handbook, organisations and individuals can have essential information in their hands. We continue in our mission to work in imaginative and creative ways, and to create a city empowered to solve homelessness.