This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Jasper Thompson, Founder of Help Bristol's Homeless
It was last year that I had the idea of converting shipping containers into free accommodation for homeless people. I was doing outreach work, talking to people on the street, and the main thing they wanted was a roof over their heads. One of those I spoke to knew a bit about construction, and it went from there – we had a 20-foot shipping container, cut out windows and doors, insulated it, made it liveable. We’ve got 16 onsite now; every one we build, it’s better than the last. We get visits all the time from other cities and councils to see what we do. It’s very straightforward, cost-effective and easily adaptable.
Homelessness is a very complex issue: austerity, loss of work, mental health issues, breakdown of marriage or relationship with parents, it all adds up. We’re finding a lot more young people on the street. Everyone we’ve housed has been referred by an agency. We like to help people engaged with other agencies – the council, St Mungo’s, etc – so we can combat the situation working together. They can stay here for 12 months, giving them a base, a postal address and a sense of place. We’ve already seen people move on to get work, move into flats.
We’ve got a prevention in plan for rough sleepers this winter – a double-decker bus, sleeping men upstairs, women downstairs. They can come onsite, have a shower, something to eat, and get their heads down. We’ll have laptops on the bus to help with form filling and, once everything is up and running, we’ll put on courses. On Thursdays we go on outreach – we can’t house everybody, but there are other ways we can help, like handing out survival blankets.
If people want to help our work, ask around your workplace and get some rucksacks together: put in sleeping bags, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc – all those essentials for someone homeless – and we’ll hand them out. We also give out handbags for women with sanitary towels, toothbrush, underwear, etc.