What will homelessness look like in Bristol this Winter?

Here's what we're doing about it - and how you can get involved

As the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, Caring in Bristol are hard at work preparing for the colder months.

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We are grateful for the positives of this year – the amazing support of Caring in Bristol volunteers and supporters, who have committed thousands of hours to staffing and fundraising for our essential work, being able to launch vital new projects and the many positive outcomes we have seen those we support achieve as they move towards independence and break the cycle of homelessness.

“A perfect storm”

There is also trepidation as we head into Winter.

The ‘Everyone In‘ programme proved that with proper resource, it is possible to end rough sleeping. Since it was enacted, the amount of people rough sleeping in Bristol has been down compared to ‘normal’, pre-pandemic figures.

Sadly, much of this support has now been withdrawn; combined with Bristol’s broken private rental sector, rising fuel costs, and government policies that will drive more people into poverty and insecure housing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit and a steadfast refusal to meaningfully help renters out of arrears built up due to Covid – we expect to see the number of people pushed into homelessness rise sharply. Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter has said the conditions amount to “a perfect storm for homelessness to rise.”

As of October 1 the notice period for Section 21 ‘no-fault’ evictions – that the government has promised but so far failed to scrap – has been revised down to two months from four, meaning that renters subject to these evictions will find themselves roofless over Christmas and the new year.

Rising Covid numbers also present a concern. Whilst much of the UK’s adult population has been vaccinated, vaccination rates amongst people who are rough sleeping remain low. People who are forced to sleep on the streets are more likely than people who are securely housed to have a chronic health condition which means that Covid poses a greater threat.

This is a sizeable set of challenges, but working together as a city, we can make a difference.

Our vision creating a city empowered to solve homelessness. This work is never more critical than throughout the Winter, when support services are stretched thinnest and accommodation is at its most scarce.

This is when Caring in Bristol’s incredible network of partners and volunteers step in, giving up countless days and nights to make a phenomenal difference and fill in the gaps in provision.

Our Winter work

One of the key findings of the Kerslake Commission Report – the landmark report commissioned to evaluate ‘Everyone In‘ was this:

“Crucially, to end rough sleeping by 2024, the system has to prevent people from arriving at a crisis point. When rough sleeping does occur, it should be brief and with a sustained and long term recovery.”

Making sure people have the support they need to avoid reaching a housing emergency is a central feature of our work. We will be opening Z House, Bristol’s only dedicated shelter for young people.

As well as providing safe self-contained overnight accommodation to young people who would otherwise be forced into insecure accommodation or unsuitable adult shelters, the space will focus on wraparound care. This means giving guests support with employment, housing, and signposting to other support services to ensure that they move on to a stable, long-term accommodation option.

Similarly, our homelessness prevention partnership operated with CHAS Bristol will use a combination of consultation, advice, and community outreach to reach people underserved by current advice services early, before a potential housing crisis occurs.

Bristol Goods – which has now been operating for a month, serving a growing number of people – will continue to provide customers with subsidised weekly shops of fresh fruit, veg, and cupboard staples whilst helping shoppers to maintain their tenancies via support services such as budget management, housing advice and advocacy, mental health and wellbeing guidance. As the project progresses, the team will establish a space for communal eating and cooking lessons.

Caring at Christmas

December will of course see the return of the South-West’s biggest Christmas homelessness project – Caring at Christmas. This year, we are aiming to make the project’s reach bigger than ever. To do so, we will combine the remote, delivery-based format developed last year that saw volunteers drop hot food, presents, and Christmas cheer to the doorstep of people in temporary and emergency accommodation across Bristol, with a more ‘traditional’ day-centre style project at Trinity Centre open to people who are rough sleeping.

The daytime component will be open to all, with guests able to receive a hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as access to advice, mental and medical support services, fun and games, and companionship.

None of this could happen without the selflessness of our compassionate supporters and volunteers, who truly go above and beyond the call of duty. This year is our most ambitious Christmas to date, but we feel confident that together we’re more than equal to the challenge.

With your help, we can make a difference – support our work today and help create a city empowered to solve homelessness.

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