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A chat with St Mungo’s

Over the course of 2017, National Friendly has been partnering up with St Mungo’s, who provide beds and support to more than 2,700 people a night, either homeless or at risk. As we’re nearing the end of this year we thought it would be nice to let you know what we have been up to while also giving you an insight into the fantastic work St Mungo’s does for the homeless population, in Bristol and further afield.

We were heartened to learn that the £11,000 raised so far equates to 651 bed spaces allowing people to sleep somewhere warm and safe in the St Mungo’s assessment night shelter. Please take the time to read our conversation with St Mungo’s below and find out more about the amazing work they do.

First of all, can you please give us a little bit of background on St Mungo’s and the day-to-day work they carry out?

St Mungo’s is a homelessness charity that believes everyone should have a place to call home. We work with more than 25,000 people each year and provide a bed to 2,700 each night to people who might otherwise be homeless and on the streets.

At St Mungo’s our specialism is in supporting people at the most dangerous point of homelessness, when they are rough sleeping and require emergency support and shelter. St Mungo’s teams go out every night in Bristol and other cities, engaging with people sleeping rough and trying to find them a route off the street.

But we know that a safe place to sleep isn’t the only thing people who are experiencing homelessness need. At St Mungo’s we deliver a number of recovery service, aimed at helping to gain the skills and support they need to rebuild their lives. This includes a Recovery College in Bristol, where people can learn new skills, such as confidence and self-esteem building, as well as support to get into volunteering, training or work. 

What circumstances have led to your clients ending up in homelessness?

In terms of causes, every year we ask our clients (people who have used our services), what they would consider the leading factor contributing to their homelessness. The stats below display the results. You will see that the leading factor is cited to be relationship breakdown.

Real Life Stories – Paul’s experience

“I had my own flat from 2011 until 2014, when I was evicted. I was being paid Housing Benefit directly and spending it – I had no budgeting skills whatsoever. 

I was spending my Housing Benefit because I was hooked on Spice [synthetic cannabinoids]. I was smoking it all the time for about three years, up until the end of 2015. I was smoking it before I lost my flat – back in the days when it was still being sold in head shops. 

Whilst homeless, I would go to day centres, get some breakfast and have a shower. Some day centres give out food parcels so you can take some away. Opposite Charing Cross station there’s a food van that comes. 

My life for two or three years was sleeping rough, begging and day centres.

Then, I was sleeping in Piccadilly for a while and I got an infection. A member of the public rang up StreetLink, who connected me to an Outreach Team, and then on to the Connexions hostel. The people at the hostel got worried and, while trying to sort my health problems, referred me to the St Mungo’s Harrow Road hostel where I now live. I was accepted for a place within a week!

I think it’s brilliant here. The meals are good, staff are brilliant – I absolutely love it here.

While I’ve been here, I’ve done an alcohol recovery course – to help others quit alcohol, not for myself – and I’ve done a First Aid course. Thankfully I’ve not had to put anyone in the recovery position!

They run a ‘Time Credit’ system here. Do a job for an hour and earn a credit, which can be spent on trips like going to the cinema or a day out. 

St Mungo’s has been really helpful with all the basics. Things like getting a passport, a new bank account, a citizen’s card, all that.

I’ll be starting at St Mungo’s Recovery College soon. So I’ll be going to college and learning every week. Getting skills up, building my CV, and getting some experience. I have no idea what I actually want to do. I spend a lot of my time here watching TV or on the computer, so maybe I’d like to learn something computer-based.

This, for me though, is temporary accommodation. I should be moving to a clearing house soon, which is semi-supported living. It’s your own flat, rather than just a room, usually. It’ll be a shame to leave Harrow Road.

I’d recommend using St Mungo’s. If anyone else was in my situation and they had the chance to be involved with St Mungo’s I’d definitely tell them to go for it. The experience would change their lives.”

What are you working on at the moment that excites you?

We’re really proud of our Safer of the Streets campaign, which we launched last year and is helping to raise enough money to fund Bristol's 70 emergency bed spaces for homeless people. To support this campaign, we launched a contactless donation point in central Bristol, the first time we have ever done this as a charity. It has proven to be really successful and will hopefully be something we roll-out to further points in the City next year.

How have you found working with National Friendly this year?

From volunteering your time, to raising thousands of pounds through your fundraising, National Friendly has been one of our most successful corporate partnerships in Bristol. Everyone has been enthusiastic and really engaged in the work that we do. I am confident that National Friendly staff will continue to be ambassadors for St Mungo’s in the future, helping to educate people about homelessness and spread the message that with support like yours, we can help people to overcome homelessness for good.

How will the money raised help St Mungo’s?

All of the money you have raised will support the delivery of our Bristol Night Shelter. Here, we offer a safe bed to 20 people each night who might otherwise be sleeping rough.Once safe and inside, we are able to work with these people to support them on their recovery from homelessness.

How can the general public help and also get involved?

There are lots of ways to support St Mungo’s this winter. Check out our winter page here, with more info on how to support. 

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Your support truly makes the difference to the lives of people who are homeless at risk in Bristol. From all of us at St Mungo’s, thank you so much - to everyone at National Friendly.

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