By Natasha Livingstone
The Students’ Union is collaborating with Durham Action on Single Housing (DASH) to give students the opportunity to learn more about tackling homelessness in County Durham. The campaign will host an ‘Activist Academy’ on Wednesday 31st January, intending to rally student involvement in tackling homelessness.
The day will consist of a series of sessions hosted by DASH, which will later be supplemented by workshops intended to equip students with the tools to effectively campaign on homelessness. The person responsible for the new initiative is the SU’s Opportunities Officer, Charlie Walker. The event has been organised in response to a 52% increase in referrals for homelessness to DASH in 2016/2017. DASH began in 1972 as a concerned about the plight of one homeless man. Since then, the organisation has grown to provide accommodation and support to hundreds of people who are homeless, or soon to become so.
In 2015-2016, DASH received 357 referrals from people in need of housing support, which rose to 542 the following year. In the last 12 months, 655 people were referred to DASH, with 76 of those referrals living on the streets. DASH is currently only able to accommodate 63 people on short, medium, or long-term agreements. Their motto asserts that “everyone, regardless of circumstances, should have a fundamental right to a place of shelter, and help to rebuild their life.”
Palatinate spoke to Shiloh, a young man currently living on the streets of Durham, who is one of the many people on the waiting list to receive accommodation from DASH. Beyond attending the awareness session, Shiloh offered the following advice: “We get that students haven’t got a lot of money. The best things you guys can give are used boxers and socks. Think of things like your grandma’s old blankets. Food is always good too”. He also suggested that student petitions for more accommodation would be beneficial.
Engaging student interest is just one of the ways DASH tries to help the homeless. They also run the Durham Community Outreach initiative, which offers gym and boxing sessions for vulnerable adults to improve their fitness and socialise. Students can also engage in other charities to help those living on the streets. Anyone can donate to the Durham foodbank or volunteer with the charity Food Cycle that prepares meals for homeless people each week. They use surplus food from cafes and the market to reduce food waste.
As previously reported by Palatinate, Julie Wearmouth, Housing Team leader of Durham County Council, recommends contacting StreetLink if you think someone is sleeping rough. This information will then be passed on to the local authority or council, who will work out how best they can help.
Streetlink can be contacted on 0300 500 0914 or via their website at www.streetlink.org.uk.
Photograph: scribbletaylor via Flickr