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Being homeless doesn’t mean being hopeless

At CALM we believe everyone should be able to ask for the help they need, no matter who they are, where they’re from, whatever their background. To us, it’s vital we’re there for groups we know are at a high risk of suicide. Because well, that just seems obvious. That’s why last year – partnering with Harry’s, men’s care brand (and who also helped us launch Project 84 in 2018) – we launched our new dedicated service that addresses the unique situation that those affected by homelessness face every day.

The stats on homeless deaths are shocking. A homeless person dies every 19 hours in the UK. The mean age of death of homeless men is 44 years old – 32 years younger than the rest of the population. And suicide is the second biggest killer of homeless people in the UK with 80% reporting struggling with their mental health.

The evidence clearly shows that there is a considerable link between homelessness, suicide and mental health problems. Unfortunately we also know that the link between them is often overlooked. But all our work and research tells us that people who are homeless need emotional support as well as practical help. 

In a survey we ran recently, only 17% of people thought mental health challenges were the toughest thing people affected by homelessness face and 69% admitted they rarely or never stop and speak to homeless people they pass.+

A dedicated service for those affected by homelessness 

So last year – with Harry’s – we set up a service for the homeless community, including a dedicated helpline that’s free, anonymous and confidential. Just like the core CALM helpline, this life-saving service is manned by trained professionals with experience of supporting those with complex needs. They provide one-to-one support for people experiencing homelessness who are struggling with their mental health for any reason – from concerns around debt, unemployment, relationship/ family issues or gambling, to crises and suicidal thoughts

So how are CALM reaching the people who need help?

What we’re doing is more than a helpline. We’ve created tailored materials to let homeless people know the service is there for them. And through Man Your Shelter we ask volunteers to help us hand out these materials so we can reach more  homeless people and let them know we are there for some. Our volunteers put up posters in shelters, soup kitchens and other places people affected by homelessness are. 

We’ve also established powerful partnerships with some amazing organisations who work every day with homeless people – with the Police, Crisis, Evolve, CentrePoint, YMCA, St Mungo’s, StreetLink and Homeless Link. Shelter’s helpline staff signpost to CALM and let them know if they’re struggling with their mental health we can help. We’ve also helped to fund a member of staff at the American Church Soup Kitchen in central London who is there to help and provide people with information and support.  

Through our partnerships and our incredible volunteers we have reached 62,756 people in just 6 months through our homeless project. 

That’s a big number but it’s stories like Daniel’s that really show the vital difference that this can make…

Daniel’s story

Daniel* contacted CALM having become homeless after an 8 year relationship ended. He turned 28 a week ago. He has been living in a graveyard, charging his phone in a pub and abusing alcohol and cocaine. He was unemployed and had no money left. 

He had attempted suicide 5 times before and was waiting for a mental health appointment, was in the middle of another attempt that evening and asked the helpline worker about the best method to take his own life. 

Our helpline worker managed to persuade Daniel to stay safe that night, gave him appropriate medical advice and suggested that Daniel asked for support from his family, as well as signposting him to Streetlink. Daniel thanked CALM for their intervention and said he would contact us again.

Stories like Daniel’s are the reason we do this. And is also the reason why this year we want to build on what we’ve achieved and reach even more people affected by homelessness. 

Because being homeless shouldn’t mean feeling hopeless. 

Affected by homelessness and struggling with your mental health?

Talk to us. Call us free on 0808 801 0616, or use our webchat here 5pm to midnight, every day of the year.

Want to support the campaign? Sign up for Man Your Shelter and help get the message out in your area. 

*Name has been changed 

+ This research was conducted by Populus using an online sample of 2068 UK adults 18+ between 10th and 13th January 2020. Data is weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain. Targets for quotas and weights are taken from the National Readership Survey, a random probability F2F survey conducted annually with 34,000 adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For further information see http://www.britishpollingcouncil.org/

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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