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St Martins volunteers with pos
Norfolk charity says nobody chooses to be homeless

Norfolk charity St Martins has launched a winter campaign to address some of the misunderstandings around homelessness and to raise awareness of their work to support vulnerable people in the county.

The campaign highlights the voices and feelings of a person experiencing homelessness alongside some of the misconceptions commonly held. Headings from the campaign include ‘I want to be treated like a human again’ and ‘I just want a safe place to call home’.

St Martins Chief Executive Dr Jan Sheldon said, “The bottom line is that no-one chooses to be homeless. An event such as the loss of a job, illness or death of a family member can cause immense pressure that pushes a person into a position where they can no longer cope.”

“We want everyone in Norfolk public to know that we are here to support people experiencing homelessness to get back on their feet and back to living the lives they want to lead. This winter no-one should be sleeping on our streets.”

The campaign was developed with help from students from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) who worked on a collaborative research project to find out what people think they know about those experiencing homelessness. The students designed a poster campaign that will be shown on buses, billboards and on social media. Local agency Naked Marketing provided creative direction and artwork support.
Whilst the majority of people feel compassion and want to give support to people experiencing homelessness, the view that homelessness is a lifestyle choice persists. Some people believe that homelessness is a result of a person’s recklessness and a series of poor choices.St Martins’ ethos is not to judge a person for what has happened in the past but to enable them to fulfil their potential and to support them in their recovery, which includes secure, permanent accommodation.

While rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness, there are a wide range of situations also described as homelessness, including ‘sofa surfing’ with family and friends, temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and people living in unsuitable housing such as sheds and squats.  

Thomas Driver, one of the students from NUA involved in the campaign design said, “The experience of working with UEA and St Martins has been an eye opening and inspiring experience, speaking to new people and hearing different perspectives definitely broadened my horizons. Everyone I worked with wanted to make a difference and the efforts put in to research, interviews and drafting of ideas definitely reflects this. Through my studies and work as a graphic designer I love to try and find ways to bring about positive social change, so for me this collaboration between UEA and St Martins has been the perfect opportunity to help inspire something that will hopefully positively impact the lives of vulnerable people in Norfolk.”

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Helen Baldry, 11/11/2020

Helen Baldry

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