What would you do if you saw a child on the street?
How an event transforms the lives of the young and homeless
It’s very clear when you look at a child, how fragile they can be, vulnerable, the need to protect and nurture them evident for all to see. In the blink of an eye, their bodies change, stretching and reaching toward adulthood. Suddenly they look very ‘adult’.
But, they’re not and they still warrant that same right to protection, promotion and validation. Charity, 1625 Independent People (1625ip), work with young people who are 16-25 years old, homeless, marginalised and disenfranchised. They call for people to recognise how vulnerable these young people are, how the just thing is for them to be supported, drawn in and included. After all, they are our future, as we are theirs.
On Thursday evening, 14 November 2019, 1625ip hosted a South West wide Sleep Out where 200 people came together and slept out in the cold to raise money and awareness for these young people. 16-25 years old is the loneliest age category (BBC Radio 4 survey, 2018), adding to relationship breakdown, unable to access a normal education and look after their health, it is incredibly frightening and unsafe to be 16-25 and homeless. On this Thursday night, however, people across the South West, across sectors and groups, stood together to say that these young people matter, that society will do better to make sure they are supported, giving them the best opportunity to thrive.
The event was very clear that sleeping out for a night was not an experience of being homeless but a symbol of uniting for change, tackling the issue of young people being in the vulnerable and precarious position where they are forced to be homeless. Where it is safer for them to be homeless than at home. The sheer force of support and investment from those attending the event highlighted Bristol’s willingness to remember and fight for the older children in our lives and community. Companies such as Andrews Property Group, Deloitte and Lloyds ran with the event, championing its importance and raising awareness with staff and partners. And their people rallied, raising over £60,000 and with a record number of attendees. With this support 1625ip can reach hundreds more young people to prevent and manage homelessness, and therefore, prevent further trauma.
The event was an empowering time, hearing the voices of young people, who bravely shared their stories and poetry to help convey the real experience. The issue of being young and homeless is complicated, involving a concoction of rejection, trauma, neglect, loss of opportunity and agency, becoming invisible, lack of money and abuse. No one could explain this journey like the young people themselves. We were also fortunate to be accompanied by Sonder Choir and Bee Bakare, who brought songs of hope, stirring the crowds. Having music at the event helped transcend what words can’t always express and galvanised a sense of purpose and drive to tackling this very real issue of youth homelessness.
Though as you read this, you won’t be surrounded by the buzz of an event, or the emotions that bubble up when you hear someone speaking about how they turned their lives around, or the feeling that comes with a song. But you are empowered to make a change, to remember the child who is the core of each of these young people. While you might think they look intimidating, they actually need to be embraced, believed in and funded. It is a privilege to live in Bristol, a community that forges ways forward to help others and make the South West a better home. And while, there are many pleas from charities and causes, investing in this cause is to invest in the future of who we are as a community. The young people and children of today are the leaders and grafters of tomorrow, who we choose to support, see flourish and lead the way. Will you?
To contribute to 1625 Independent People financially, you can visit their fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/1625independentpeople
If you are interested in getting involved in another way, you can find out more information here: https://www.1625ip.co.uk/Volunteering-V-I-P.aspx