This is a guest posting courtesy of Deputy Sean Power, whom I contacted for information after hearing him speak on on BBC Radio Jersey about homelessness and the work done to combat that with Sanctuary House .
Sanctuary House is at Sabots D'or Guest House, La Rue Du Crocquet, St. Brelade, Jersey JE38BZ and can be contacted at 01534 743732 for donations of goods or funds.
The website is: http://www.sanctuaryhous.co.uk/
Sanctuary House and Homelessness in Jersey
by Deputy Sean Power
Sanctuary House now has 32 beds in three buildings, all full. In the past 17 months, we have had 141 men go through our system. Each time we open a new facility, it fills overnight. Two men have stayed longer than the normal expected period.
There are men and women out there this afternoon who will sleep rough to-night in cars, vans, squats, barns, boats, tents and in worst cases, toilets, shelters and so on. Some of these chose to live like this. Some do not. The problem is Jersey is that the issue of homelessness is beneath the surface and almost invisible. The cost of rented accommodation here is becoming an issue and people simply cannot afford it in some situations.
The causes are multifarious, marital or relationship failure, financial problems, job loss, depression, drug or alcohol abuse, mental, physical or emotional problems. Some temporarily set up temporary abode on friend's couches, relations couches or people's floors. Others "cram" and share in flats. It effects men more than women.
In my estimation, looking at the figures at Sanctuary House, there are over 250 people out there to-day at least that sleep in a place that is temporary or a place that is not permanent or a place that is illegally occupied.
Sanctuary House provides a haven for these people:
We have had a man who lost his business, then his home and then his car.
We have a man that is a victim of domestic abuse.
We have "Jake", a Jerseyman, who has fought with alcoholism and is now back leading a calm and ordered life. We have Gabriell, another victim to alcoholism, who is on the road to recovery.
We have "Michael", who served 17 years in the British Army, then 26 years with Jersey Post. He was made redundant, used his redundancy to pay off bills and debt. His two sons were killed in an accident in the UK. He found out that he was not entitled to Social Security for six months owing to his lump sum redundancy payment. He ended up homeless and started to self-medicate on alcohol.
We have Joe, a local man is his sixties, who attempted suicide. He became depressed, lonely as a result of being hurt at work. He has an ongoing court case that we are assisting on.
Others use the housing component of income support to live in guest houses, lodging houses and B&B's. We have two women that eat with us daily who are technically homeless though are hot-bunking in various places.
The projections for redundancy and unemployment for the next six months in certain industries locally will add to the problem. The disruptive effects of having somebody, a son or daughter, a friend, relation or an acquaintance using a home even temporarily is a strain and adds to anxiety tension, stress and depression. If that person has an alcohol or drug problem, the strain on the family becomes unbearable.
On a Tuesday morning weekly group conscience meeting, we now have over 20 men attending. This smoothes the bumps and ripples that might otherwise cause tension. We have also had to ask men to leave that do not adhere to simple house rules.
Many of the men now want to go to Church on Sunday at the Parish Church of St. Brelade, St. Aubin-on-the-Hill and St. Aubin Methodist Church. Soon, we will be attending St. Thomas' and St. Marks.
The Housing Department waiting lists added to the Housing trust lists show a shortage of about 1000 units of accommodation. We had a list of over 50 men and know that if we open another 60 bed unit in January, we will fill it quickly. That will bring us up to about 100 beds and that is in our plan. As vice president of JSPCA, I know about an increase in animals being disclaimed to the Society. The Housing Minister has agreed that homelessness will become a bigger and growing problem.
I do not know the expansion plan for Shelter Trust or either the Women's Refuge or Causeway. I do know that we need to expand with some urgency. We find that a community life or community living has an extra-ordinary healing effect on men and watching these guys all work and communicate together has a huge positive healing effect. It is a bit like respite with love, care and counselling and then they go back out into society to their families. Some need more help than others. Some men that we helped are now helping us help others.
Sanctuary House acts as an ombudsman to these men and we deal on an almost daily basis with Social Security, Health and Social Services, Orchard House, the Courts, the Probation office, The Viscounts Office, Housing, the Magistrates themselves. We talk to employers, prospective employers councillors, the Churches and a plethora of other people and bodies.
All of this is done with public support. We receive no direct States assistance. It is the Jersey public that have been brilliant and who have helped furnish three houses. Every pillow, every duvet, every lap-top, every mug and cup, spoon and knife has been donated. We are so grateful and we thank all those members of the public that have helped us along the way".
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