The report highlights that homeless people see volunteering as an important way in which they can move from feeling ‘shunned’, ‘excluded’ and ‘out in the cold’ to being active community members again.
But survey findings from homeless people, sector leaders and the public reveal concerns that the picture could become yet bleaker, with homelessness rising and cuts starting to impact on the services people need.
The report highlights that:
• Only 14% of St Mungo’s clients and staff surveyed thought homeless people are included in society. One person said: “the majority of society are ignorant and fearful about homeless people and don’t really want to include them’, another said: “Excluded: Watching from the sidelines sceptically.’*
• A total of 39% of the public surveyed in a YouGov poll agreed the Coalition Government should specifically pledge to protect homeless people. Less than 1 in 10 people (9%) thought the Government is currently doing enough to protect homeless people. However, 30% of people didn’t personally want to donate time, money or support homeless charities through taxes.**
• Of St Mungo’s homeless clients surveyed, 70% wanted to volunteer to “give something back to their local community” or to “help other people.”
Charles Fraser said: “Homeless people already feel stigmatised and excluded, yet they have a strong sense of wanting to give something back through volunteering. On the other hand, they are very sceptical about the Government’s ‘Big Society’ message. All of those interviewed thought the Big Society would have a negative effect on them, inextricably linked to cuts.
“For society to be truly big enough to include homeless people, we need determined leadership from the very top to make sure that every government action – big or small – takes into account the impact it will have on deeply disadvantaged people.
“What’s needed is an approach with more muscle. Some Government departments have already been showing the way by prioritising disadvantaged people in their plans and making sure that precious government funding for disadvantaged groups really does reach them.
“If Government committed to do that across departments, and people thought their input would make a critical difference, then I believe communities would take a compassionate responsibility for everyone in their midst.
“If not, there is a risk of pushing homeless and vulnerable people into even greater social exclusion – something which we know can take decades to repair.”
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