Help the homeless

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By Zain Sardar on 23.1.2024

Help the homeless

We all do it. After a night out in town in Canterbury, we walk pass the many homeless people and ignore their cries for salvation. But surely a little of our change can’t really make a difference? This is a problem the government and local services should be dealing with, right?

As we are now in the middle of the winter periods that sends chills through the air, this is a time more than any we should be concerning ourselves with the homeless, poverty stricken in Canterbury.

Over the last few years, the number of homeless people in Canterbury has rapidly increased, many homeless people venturing into Canterbury from neighbouring cities and towns lacking in sufficient services to deal with the homelessness problem. No doubt they seek some solace in a town steeped in religious history with its huge place of worship- the Cathedral, hoping to transcend their lot with the help and guidance they need.

So where is the government in all of this? Well, every year the government records the amount of homeless people in cities like Canterbury by sending officials to them. Last year, the government recorded that there were only two homeless people in the whole of Canterbury! This statistic has an air of the ridiculous about it considering a local homeless charity, the Scrine Foundation, has an average of twenty homeless people a night in their homeless shelter. Apparently, the government doesn’t count homeless people living behind shops and near or on railway lines, that are in emergency homeless shelters, as well as people that it claims are not ‘bedded down’ correctly.

If local charities complain about this, the government will allow them to go ahead with their own count. However, the devilish snag here is that if charities are genuine in recording vast amounts of homelessness people, in other words the truth, the government claims they’re not doing their jobs properly and can cut their funding. The detrimental and absurd effect this has then is that local charities and services that tell the truth about their huge homeless problem have their funding cut and struggle even more to deal with the enormousness of their situation. On the contrary, places in which charities and aid services fabricate a low homeless figure will be provided with the increased funding.

The consequence of this topsy-turvy situation is the spread of homeless people into Canterbury, as other small towns and cities in the areas around us struggle to develop the local services they need to cope with the problem. This has put charities like the Scrine foundation under a great deal of pressure, and the Local Authority hasn’t done them any favours, refusing to provide them with a nurse they desperately need to replace a retired one.

So, what can we do as University students? Well, we’ve all seen the lives homeless people in Canterbury live. Many of them are fed up of the government, such as some homeless people you may have seen holding up a cardboard sign with ‘Gordon Brown sucks’ scrawled on it. It might be forgivable to think that this is none of our concern; many of us don’t even live here permanently. But it seems to me that the government’s attitude to the problem is far worse, they seem to have actively ignored, tried to brush under the carpet and have underestimated the scope of the problem.

We as university students, more than anyone, need to take active steps to help the community around us. Canterbury is a university city, and if we all put the effort in to help charities like the Scrine foundation, that magnanimously continue to help the homeless , through for example fundraising, there is no limit to what we have achieve.

However, at the moment many the homeless people in Canterbury suffer from mental illness, and have trouble making sense of the harsh reality of the world around them. At the moment, it seems, even in this most holly of cities, salvation is still a long way off for many of these people.


  • I worked for the Scrine Foundation in the kitchen. I do a hell of a lot of voluntary work and love my work if I feel I am valued. I worked there for two weeks and wasn’t really needed because there were already two payed chefs there.

    It was nice to be a part of it and just chat with everyone, but it is a shame you have to work in the kitchen first before getting anywhere, otherwise I would have stayed for longer.

    Luke, you are right about tackling the problem from the root, but often people are homeless because they have stopped trying to help themselves. Things go wrong, people loose everything they have, and instead of doing something major about it, their depression leads to lack of motivation and they become content with living off the street. I don’t speak for everyone obviously.

    I would never encourage anyone to give money to a homeless person, instead do ask if they need a coat (I got a great one, £3 from charity shop) or a sandwich. Get them to come with you and a mate to choose their sandwich. If they don’t want either then that is really their problem and from my own research they want money to spend on temporary fixes such as alcohol.

    Perhaps more focus on free services for people at the start of this spiral where they need help and advice as they loose money, their home, their family… This would be a better place to start because the homeless people of Canterbury seem to have given up on trying to make a better living.

    Prove me wrong, I really want someone to.

    By Faith Victoria Allen on 31.5.2023

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  • My guess about the food thing might be for safety reasons. You know, getting food (unless it’s packaged and unopened) from strangers is tricky: you don’t know what’s in it. And I do go back and forth about helping someone on the street. I know some former homeless folks and many times, they did admit it was easier than dealing with the problems of “normal” people. But then you do have people that are working hard to get themselves out of their homeless condition. If you are concerned if your loose change is actually doing any good, I would suggest giving it to an organization such as Scrine or Palmer. ~ Terrance

    By Terrance on 28.5.2023

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  • I have seen lots of homeless people in Canterbury but if you offer them some food, they don’t want it which is surprising. I came across one that had a sign that said ‘homeless, hungry and cold’. Since it was a cold day, I asked the man did he want something to eat. He said in reply ‘no thanks, I have something to eat’. It makes me wonder, if you want help yet refuse help when it is offered to you, do you really want to get out of the mess you have gotten yourself into?

    By Anonymous on 6.2.2024

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  • What really needs to be done is to solve the problem of why people become homeless in the first place. It is all fair and well providing extra shelters, but unless the root of the problem is solved then homelessness is always going to be an issue, and one which will not simply go away by putting people up in shelters.

    By Luke Walter on 26.1.2024

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  • Students who want to do something really pro-active can also volunteer to help with one of the Scrine Foundation’s projects. For example, they can work in their book shop or help prepare the evening meal at Palmer House (near the Works). Then, you aren’t just throwing money at the problem but you’re still doing something really basic and useful for the local community. Anyone who is interested in volunteering should contact the co-ordinator, David Bolsover:

    By Emily Kennedy on 25.1.2024

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