This week more than 70 people were brought together by Oasis’s community champion in Southampton, Paul Woodman, to discuss rough sleeping and homelessness in a conference entitled, ‘Beds, begging and business’.
The conference drew together representatives from Southampton’s homelessness organisations, local businesses, community organisers, health providers, faith groups, public bodies, councillors, and people with lived experience of rough sleeping.
The conversation was organised to look afresh at issues of street homelessness as well as aggressive begging in the city, with the aim of finding a common understanding of what causes rough sleeping and street homelessness in Southampton – and find the means to tackle the issue.
A number of students from Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill supported the event, and Year 11 Lucy Allen, performed ‘Bridge over Troubled Waters,’ moving many of the audience to tears, as they listened and reflected on stories they had heard during the day.
Following Lucy’s musical performance, Saints’ 1976 FA Cup-winning manager Lawrie McMenemy MBE, spoke after dinner and encouraged everyone in the room to work together as a team to make a difference to those that are sleeping rough and to see their situation improve.
Superintendent Alison Heydari, Southampton District Commander and Chair of Safe City Partnership said ‘This conference was a valuable opportunity for a diverse range of stakeholders to openly discuss the issues related to homelessness and begging. Working in collaboration and active citizenship will ensure that we as a City can pull together to protect the vulnerable and make people safer’.
Cllr Dave Shields, Cabinet Member for Health & Community Safety at Southampton City Council – who in November slept outside with Society of St James to raise money for those sleeping rough, said:
“We are determined to help homeless people in Southampton get back on their feet and off the streets and we currently spend millions of pounds each year providing beds and support services to do this.”
“To tackle the root causes of homelessness we must take a compassionate approach and involve the whole community. This conference is a welcome opportunity for us to work together to come up with fresh ideas and new projects to help those that are most vulnerable and ensure Southampton remains a safe and attractive place to live and work.”
Executive Principal, Phil Humphreys said, ‘This event is typical of not only the educational transformation at the heart of Oasis Community Learning, but of the deep rooted belief that the Oasis charity holds for delivering change in all the communities we serve.”
“We are proud of Southampton and delighted that we have been able in a small way to support the facilitation of such an important discussion affecting the families we serve and the future of the city we love. We are so pleased that the event has been so positive.”