Homelessness – it could be you - a letter from Sally Pickering, chief officer Citizens Advice Stroud district

During the recent icy weather, seeing rough sleepers in the doorways of our town has shocked many people who wonder how people can find themselves in this situation. At Citizens Advice in

Stroud, we see people every day who never thought that they would be where they now find themselves and that’s why they just don’t know what to do to next.

Whether it’s a recent divorce, redundancy, or the sudden death of a family relative, we all struggle when faced with a mountain of bureaucracy in a situation we’ve never had to deal with before.

And when several of these problems all come at the same time, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed and for everything to slide quickly out of control.

Barry’s relationship recently broke down and he left home to stay with family for a few weeks to “cool down”.

When he came back he found his ex’s new partner had moved in so he promptly cancelled all direct debits for the house bills, leaving 23p in his bank account, then he used his remaining cash to take a bus to Stroud to look for somewhere to live.

As a self-employed decorator, Barry had no work at the time so when he came to Citizens Advice he had no money, no food and no home.

He had slept rough for the last 3 nights but was finding it too cold to carry on and he was struggling with depresssion.  The Council had found emergency overnight accommodation in Gloucester but Barry had no money to get there. 

Through a Big-Lottery funded project, Citizens Advice was able to provide funds to enable Barry to get the bus to Gloucester and back for his appointment at the Job Centre the following day.

Our volunteer adviser also arranged for an emergency food parcel to be delivered to him by the Foodbank, arranged for P3 to help him complete this Benefits application and helped him to make a homeless application to the council.

Barry finally received his benefits payment and his homeless application is being dealt with.

Although his situation is not yet stable, the immediate crisis was resolved through local charities and public bodies working together, enabling Barry to now concentrate on building up his local business and getting back on his own two feet financially and emotionally.

However, unless Barry is found to be “vulnerable” in some way, there may be little else that the Council can do to help him.  There’s a desperate shortage of affordable private rented accommodation in our area and, whilst local charities can do a lot by working together in our communities, there is also the need for action nation to address this housing shortage to ensure everyone has a safe, warm home to go to.

You can watch the award-winning video help through crisis Stroud and Cotswolds video below - which highlights the wonderful work that organisations across the district doing to support those in need:

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For advice, call our Freephone number is 0808 800 0510. For more information about drop-in location and opening times, go to citizensadvice-stroudandcotswold.org.uk.