Milton Keynes has been referred to as the Youth Homelessness capital of the country (see article here).
As the statistics recently highlighted by the MK Futures 2050 team at MK Council show (see below), the cost of renting and buying a home in Milton Keynes is very high compared to average incomes, making life very difficult for many people in the City. These are just some of the reasons why the fantastic MK VCS groups supporting those who are homeless, or experiencing a housing crisis, are so vitally important.
(Information from MK Futures 2050 Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pg/MKFutures2050)
This feeds into the national picture with Shelter, the national housing and homelessness charity, warning that every 4 minutes a family in the UK and Scotland becomes homeless (see an article here about the scale of the issue on a national level).
Opportunities to volunteer
Back in November 2019, at the beginning of the cold season, we highlighted the work of the many local grassroots groups and charities that support people who are homeless in Milton Keynes, and the opportunities to volunteer with these organisations (see our blog here).
Radio interview: The Bus Shelter MK
Homelessnes in Milton Keynes was also a focus of our November 2019 radio show on Secklow Sounds, including a fascinating chat with Pam Williams, the Chair of The Bus Shelter MK.
The Bus Shelter MK is a really innovative project, initiated by local people who came together around their desire to play a role in supporting those people in MK they saw living on the streets. The bus provides temporary accommodation for those sleeping rough, and with the support of volunteers and staff, residents are given the time to address some of the issues they are facing, and get back on their feet. To hear the interview from Pam Williams and find out more about this fantastic project, please visit: thebussheltermk.org and click below.
What can you do if you see someone rough sleeping?
Many of us wonder what we can do to help if we see someone rough sleeping. One tool available is a website and an app, called StreetLink.
If you are concerned about someone over the age of 18 that you have seen sleeping rough anywhere in England or Wales, you can use this website to send an alert to StreetLink. The details you provide (including the rough sleeper’s location and general appearance) are sent to the local authority or outreach service for the area in which you have seen the person, to help them find the individual and connect them to support.
It is important to note that if you think the person you are concerned about is under 18 please do not contact StreetLink but instead call the police. The person sending the alert initially receives details of the action the outreach team normally takes when they are told someone is sleeping rough, which will vary locally. StreetLink also finds out what has happened as a result of the alert within 14 days and, if requested, provides the member of the public with an update. To find out more, visit: streetlink.org.uk.
Here is also a link to the information available on the MK Council’s website: milton-keynes.gov.uk/housing/need-somewhere-to-live/homeless-or-in-danger-of-becoming-homeless
The issue of homelessness is often at the forefront of people’s minds as winter begins, and over the festive period, but is obviously a year round concern. As such, we returned to the topic this month and were lucky enough to interview three more brilliant local initiatives that support those who are homeless or in housing crisis.
Winter Night Shelter
The Winter Night Shelter MK provides hot meals, support and overnight accommodation for rough sleepers during the winter months. The organisation is entirely funded by donations and is supported by a network of over 800 volunteers supporting residents to access a safe and warm place to sleep at locations across Milton Keynes. To find out more we spoke to Sara Millington, Communications Manager at the Winter Night Shelter and you can hear that interview here.
Winter Night Shelter is based at Unity Park Station (the old bus station also known as The Buszy), from where the day-services for people who are sleeping rough are provided before they are taken to the various hostels and locations across the city. There is also a weekly community club that takes place at Unity Park Station, a fairly new initiative for anyone who wants to have a chat, ask for advice, play table tennis and other services. One of the aims of the community club is to reduce feelings of loneliness and support people (see our blog here to find out more).
YMCA is the only social housing and homeless charity dedicated to young people in Milton Keynes, providing accommodation, advice & support as well as training & education for young people. They have been running since 1991 and have helped over 10,000 young people with accommodation, support and wellbeing services to help them feel a sense of belonging, contribute and thrive. The organisation is excited about the opening of an entirely new hostel in Central Milton Keynes this April. This new facility will have 199 rooms, a café, nursery and various meeting spaces – aiming to serve as a community hub for young people in Milton Keynes. To find out more, visit: ymca.org.uk.
Help Our Homeless MK
Help Our Homeless MK celebrate their 5th anniversary this year. They are wonderful examples of a grassroots group that started as an ambition of one local resident from Beanhill, Laura Nash, to support people on the streets of Milton Keynes.
Touched by her encounter with a homeless person, Laura decided to find other like-minded people and began volunteering her time to collect items of clothing and donate them to people coming along to the another well-known support service for homeless people in MK, the Soup Run. Soon enough the initiative really took off and developed into an effective entirely volunteer-led group, which provides support to people on the streets as well as to those who are newly re-housed. We were really touched by our chat with Cath Pantling, the committee member of Hope Our Homeless MK, who has also been volunteering with the group since its early days.
It is really great that so much support is available in Milton Keynes and that so many groups and projects work across the city to alleviate causes of homelessness.
One thing that seems very clear from talking to all of the groups mentioned above, is how important it is that people in a homelessness or housing crisis have access to a holistic support, a suite of services that act as a safety net. With this in mind, it’s worth mentioning the other, not necessarily directly homelessness-related organisations, including Citizen Advice, Compass, British Red Cross, Refugees Welcome MK, Foodbank, and more! MK Homelessness Partnership offers a list of other vital services available in MK: see here.
We were also interested to hear the recent news about the new ‘Tap & Donate’ initiative from My Milton Keynes, (see an article here), which is one way of supporting people who are affected by homelessness and contributing to the work of MK Homelessness Partnership.