Listening to make change

A really important part of this project has been the support that the community has shown, particularly by the faith communities connected to the sponsoring committee, but also more widely through the volunteers who are involved in the night shelter at The Salvation Army.  It's important to understand, though, that this project has been shaped by the listening that we have done to that same community, and also the guests who have stayed at the Salvation Army night shelter over the last 6 years.  With this experience, we came to realise that if we really wanted to help the guests in the shelter reach a better standard of living, we needed something more than a night shelter.

In Redbridge, there's a statistic that we keep repeating over and over again because it's so important that people understand the nature of rough sleeping in the borough.  Based on the last count carried out in November 2017, there were 60 rough sleepers.  This made our borough the 8th highest local authority for rough sleeping in the country and the third highest in London after Westminster and Croydon.  42 of these people have No Recourse to Public Funds meaning that they cannot access state support to move on from the street.  36 of these 42 have been sleeping on the street for over two years.  

While we don't know the full details of every person's situation (it is not our place to..), we have learned about some of the particular challenges presented to people sleeping on the street.  One example is around the capacity to make informed decisions.  In a recent conversation, a friend who sleeps on the street was explaining to me about how funny he found it when well-meaning people would talk to him about what he wants to be doing in 3 or 4 years time.  While he has hopes and dreams and is aware of what his future could look like, he wasn't in a position to be able to act on it.  He was focused on where his next meal was going to come from.  He explained to me that for some people, who may have been sleeping on the street for over 10 years, their brains had been trained to think in an incredibly very short-term way.  For example, they might only be able to think about the next 10 minutes.

Project Malachi is an attempt to provide a more stable setting so that people's brains and bodies can recover from the trauma of long-term sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and the lack of safety and other basic needs.  Through this respite, we can provide people with a supported space to make informed decisions about their future, starting gradually think about a future that is beyond tomorrow.

As I mentioned, this project hasn't come out of a vacuum.  It's based on hundreds, more likely thousands of conversations similar to the one I described over the last 6 years with our shelter volunteers and guests.  We have come to learn more and more about the particular situations affecting those on the streets of Ilford and we're hopeful that, with your help, we'll be able to make changes that benefit our whole community for the long term.  A community effort like this also impacts 

A community effort like this also has an impact beyond our own generation.  If our children grow up thinking that it is normal for large numbers of people to sleep on the street, then they will be more accepting of poor standards of housing for themselves.  "At least we have a roof over our head," they will tell themselves.  Working together to raise the standard of living across our entire community, especially those most visible, will mean we have higher expectations for our own lives.  In other words, it is in all our interests, and our children's interests, to make Project Malachi a success.

Thank you for your continued support.

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