Watch the video of this speech here.
Today marks the 11th World Homeless Day. Whilst we are still in the grips of a pandemic, people in the UK and around the world are suffering. Millions across the globe are homeless, and today is the day where we come together as a local, national and international community to raise awareness and promote the best ways to help.
I am Hugo Sugg, the Chief Executive of the Cardon Banfield Foundation - an organisation in the UK which is responding to homelessness. We are one of hundreds of organisations in the country which are there to tackle homelessness, but we have a different way of doing it.
Our primary mission is to prevent unnecessary deaths of people who are homeless..
Hundreds of rough sleepers and people who are in temporary accommodation are found deceased every year, with the majority of them not being investigated.
74 year old Cardon Banfield’s death in 2016 was the exception and not the rule - with 3 and a half years of pressure on authorities in Worcestershire, a Safeguarding Adults Review was finally conducted and the conclusion was exactly how we expected: More could have been done by agencies to help Cardon and the other 5 people who died between 2016 and 2020.
Although carrying out an investigation into a death of a person who is homeless is uncommon, what is not uncommon is the result. Time and time again it is found that services in the individual’s local area have not worked in the best way and this meant the person slipped through the net with often tragic and fatal consequences.
It has always been the case that myself and the volunteers of the Cardon Banfield Foundation find this unacceptable. Millions of pounds every year is spent on the issue of homelessness up and down the UK, yet every week we see reports that someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, or best friend’s body has been found before their time was up.
Today, on World Homeless Day, we should all pay tribute to each one of these people and send our condolences to their friends, family and the community who mourn them every day.
Because homelessness can happen as a result of many factors in someone’s life, it is not always preventable which means it is impossible to ‘end homelessness’ everywhere completely. Recognising this, however, should not stop us doing the best we can to soften the impact.
The significance of World Homeless Day is that homelessness becomes the focus of everyone, regardless of their job or location.
We all have a responsibility to help our neighbour.
Firstly, language is so important. You will notice that in this speech, I have not said ‘homeless person’ because to say that is to remove someone’s humanity. Saying ‘death of a person who is homeless’ puts the person before any number of the issues they face. If you know that individual, then you should use their name.
Changing our language helps vulnerable people feel recognised and validated.
Secondly it’s recognising that homelessness comes in many forms and people on the street - often called rough sleepers - are the most visible form of homelessness yet the least common.
The majority of people who are homeless are behind closed doors. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering “how are they homeless?”, however it’s important to realise that homelessness is an umbrella term for anyone who does not have their own safe, secure accommodation.
This means people who are staying on their friend’s sofa, in hospital, in prison, in a homeless shelter or at risk of eviction are technically homeless. Each one of these people are vulnerable in their own way.
With this in mind, you are likely to know someone who is defined as ‘homeless’ but you might not realise it. Today is a good time to reflect on people around you and the situations they’re in.
There are over 400 Local Authorities (you might know them as Councils) in the four nations of the United Kingdom and each one of them is responsible for homelessness. This includes preventing homelessness and housing people who are eligible for assistance.
Many think that it’s just easy to go to the Council office and within a couple of hours you’ll get keys to some flat to move in that night - but this is the opposite to what happens. Eligibility for housing when homeless is really complex. There are 5 tests you must “pass” to have housing from the Council including priority need and intentionality, or rather, unintentionally.
Regardless of the situation, it is vital to know that the first organisation someone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness should go to is the Council, as they have a legal responsibility for people who are homeless. Most charities which help the homeless will direct people to the Council first and foremost.
Today is also World Mental Health Day and there is a huge link between poor mental health and homelessness, whether it is homelessness as a result of poor mental health or mental health issues that occur because of being homeless.
Very often, people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness are in need of additional support, like counselling, and this is generally provided by charities and other organisations. Some charities may provide temporary accommodation to people who are homeless or check up on rough sleepers who bed down on the streets at night.
It is these organisations that are often criticised when a death of someone homeless occurs.
You will probably walk past a rough sleeper on the street every day or week. People who, just like you, likely once had a home, a relationship, family, career, friends, money and a lifestyle which fell from under their feet.
People who are homeless don’t fall from space and land in shop doorways, but as a society we treat them like aliens. Think to when you walk past someone rough sleeping - did you look at them? Did you smile? Did you say hello? Or did you perhaps put some change in a cup and walk on because you wanted to help?
I don’t know for certain, but I am going to take an educated guess that you walked past and didn’t really notice. Now, I’m not here to cast blame because that doesn’t help you or the person who is homeless - I’m here to help you change your behaviour so you don’t do it again.
Firstly, it’s important to say that you can’t physically help everyone and we all have different things to do in our lives. But regardless of that, we can all help a little with things that are free.
Next time you’re out walking, make a conscious effort to look around for rough sleepers. When you see one make sure to look at them in the eye, smile and say hello.
This should be the minimum you do every time.
If you want to help further and you have the time, then the best way to do this is to walk up to them, say hi, give them some personal space, kneel down to their level and introduce yourself. Ask them what their name is and if they are ok.
Many people have the attitude that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ but how would you feel if you walked into a cafe or restaurant and you got handed something you didn’t order and be told to be grateful? You wouldn’t like it, so why do we inflict this discomfort on people who are homeless? If you wish to get them something like food or drink, then ask them and give them a choice BEFORE you buy something. Why? Because if they are vegetarian, and you buy them a meat sandwich then they won’t be able to eat it. If you buy them a white coffee and they’re vegan then they wouldn’t be able to drink it. If you buy them a Lucozade and they have diabetes, then that might send them into a hypo.
It’s really important to check with that individual as we all have different tastes, preferences and likes but most importantly we all need to stay healthy and well.
Cold and hot weather can equally be dangerous for people who are homeless. There's a common misconception that hot weather is great, however it can cause severe health issues.
If someone is sitting out of the shade for 6+ hours a day this could cause heatstroke and dehydration. Left untreated, conditions like these can be fatal and cause people who are homeless to die.
We encourage people to take extra care of people on the streets during heatwaves and cold spells - and this includes asking people if they are feeling unwell. Anyone feeling or saying they are ill should be taken to a doctors or hospital and if this is not feasible then 999 should be called.
By doing all of these things, as individuals and as a charity, then we can really make a difference to people’s lives and potentially save them from dying on our streets.
With the average age of death for a female who is homeless standing at 43 and a male at 45, it’s even more important to take action. Also, you can help the right services get to anyone you see sleeping rough through a service called StreetLink. It’s important to note that this is not reporting someone for being homeless and it won’t get them in trouble - it’s a really good service to ensure they get the right help, especially if they are new to the streets or area.
You can log a sighting of a rough sleeper by going to streetlink.org.uk. Make sure you have the basic information of where you saw them, what time, gender, approximate age and what they were wearing. This will help the right services be able to find them if they move about and offer the best support.
You can also check up on how they are doing after you make a referral.
It’s simple things like this that make a real difference.
I know this personally.
I set up the Foundation in 2015 as a campaign to tell my story of homelessness at 18 and to challenge stereotypes and erase stigma. Cardon’s death in 2016 shook all of Worcester to its core and was going to be ignored because it was uncomfortable. I made sure Cardon wasn’t going to be forgotten. I made sure there was an investigation into his and the other deaths that occurred because, morally, it wasn’t right for someone to die alone in a tent and not be recognised or given justice.
The system failed Cardon Banfield and because of that, with approval of his family, I rebranded the campaign in Cardon’s memory.
The first thing I did on our website was upload every council number in the country and a simplified version of the Council’s process when it deals with someone who presents to them as homeless. I urge you to remember this for general use and also when you are speaking to rough sleepers.
The Foundation has a big plan.
Over the next five years the Cardon Banfield Foundation is hoping to get into at least half of the 400 areas through our Satellite Hubs to positively influence how services work together and ultimately prevent vulnerable people from dying.
We have been working extremely hard behind the scenes to launch our Satellite Hub Programme, where a volunteer in each area will be trained and work hard over a period of time to embed themselves in their community and be a unifying and positive voice for local, vulnerable people.
Each Satellite Hub Leader will gather the knowledge and expertise in their area and use this, along with evidence-based research, to help create better services for people who are homeless. Over the course of 12 months, the knowledge and skills gained will be going some way to make a positive impact in the community whilst also being part of an amazing team of volunteers who are responding to homelessness.
I can also reveal today that we are busy behind the scenes creating an education programme where we want to go into schools, organisations and businesses and talk about the realities of homelessness and how anyone can fall on hard times, but it’s what you do when you react that could make all the difference.
We’re not funded by anyone except through donations, we’re not associated with any other organisation, we’re fiercely independent and here to make a difference.
If you like this attitude, then you can help us save lives. We are looking for volunteers for the Cardon Banfield Foundation. There are many roles available to suit all skills and you do not need to travel anywhere or be an expert in homelessness.
Please go to cardonbanfield.org or search Cardon Banfield Foundation now to find out more about our Satellite Hub Programme and volunteering opportunities.
What you have heard today is the tip of the iceberg and is basic information but it equips you with the tools and knowledge to be able to help some of the most vulnerable in our world.
Whether you volunteer for the Foundation, working alongside our amazing volunteers like Sophie Rieckmann, or you just say hello to a rough sleeper on the street - the homeless community need you, and from today you can make a real, noticeable difference to people.
To recap - if you see a rough sleeper then you can help services find them by going to streetlink.org.uk and if you want to find out more about what the Cardon Banfield Foundation are doing, want to sign up to volunteer, or support us by donating £8 a month to help us reach out to every corner of the United Kingdom, please visit cardonbanfield.org and find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @CardonBFdn or search Cardon Banfield Foundation.
A full transcript of this speech will be available on the Cardon Banfield Foundation website and a video posted online, with links on social media.
The Cardon Banfield Foundation - Responding to homelessness.
Thank you for listening today and I wish you a pleasant rest of the day.