Having a roof over your head is not the only setback the homeless people of Leamington are facing.
This was the conclusion of the first of two open forums - held as part of the Life On In The Cold two-month festival focussing on homelessness in the town - which took place at All Saints’s church on March 11.
Speaking with an audience were key figures dealing with homelessness in the area, including Margaret Moore and Chris Johnson of the Leamington Night Shelter, Steph and Geoff Devlin of the Leamington Christian Mission, Jonathan Chilvers of the Way Ahead project based at Leamington’s Salvation Army and Big Issue seller Wil Crowder.
Festival organiser Margaret Moore said: “It was clear that in most cases, accommodation - or a lack of it - is not always the only setback that an individual might encounter. There are often issues of mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, relationship breakdown and debt that compound the issue.”
It was highlighted that organisations such as the Night Shelter - described by Margaret Moore as a “safe haven” where each person is “treated as a human being” - and the Leamington Christian Mission - which has been providing hot food to those in need for more than 20 years - provide help with emergency shelter, food and clothing.
But more long-term support and rehabilitation is also available in the town. Jonathan Chilvers of the Way Ahead project, which provides drop-in advice and activities for those affected by homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse and mental health issues, said: “I want some of our clients to be doing my job in ten years’ time. I’m not here to put a sticking plaster on wounds. I want to walk with people, see their lives transformed and see them into employment.”
Maria Fennell from Springfield Mind spoke of the increase in the number of people needing help in recent years. She said: “Benefit cuts, housing and debt drive people into mental health problems: more needs to be done to increase investment in mental health and to integrate resources.”
Wil Crowder - who is regularly seen outside H&M in the Parade selling the Big Issue - outlined the frustrations in coping with “so much red-tape” in order to obtain benefits, the knock-on effect when benefits don’t arrive on time and the “detrimental” effect it can have on one’s health.
The next open forum will take place at All Saints’ on May 1.
Events are ongoing until then, including a talk on ‘improving the health of the poorest fastest’ at All Saints’ on Thursday (March 27) at 7.30pm by former Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Aidan Halligan. To find out more about all events, visit allsaintschurchleamington.org.uk