As I have mentioned before, people who are experiencing homelessness are often very busy just attending to the basic necessities of life. In London, a person might walk 20 kilometres in a day just to get to the food bank, have a test done at St Joe’s hospital, go to the soup kitchen, and back to the shelter where they are staying. Most have multiple appointments in any given day with various support services. However, although one is busy, there can be a lack of feeling like one is making any forward progress.
Because of this, there has been a growing conversation about making space for meaningful daytime activities to enhance positive socialization, lend purpose and meaning to life, and perhaps enhance some life skills. We have been talking about this in the London Homelessness Outreach Network from day 1, but it is also mentioned as a topic that will go to committee in the London Community Plan on Homelessness. In my dissertation research, doing focus groups to move forward from the findings, individuals with lived experience mentioned this as the primary service gap in London (followed by street-level healthcare).
Two agencies come to mind who are already doing some of this. The London Coffee House is very important to many people, and is the main social network of many, built simply around playing cards. More recently, the London InterCommunity Health Centre Health Outreach for the Homeless has started a creative writing group. They call themselves Grit Uplifted, and have started a blog at http://grituplifted.tumblr.com/. Many of the agencies that currently exist to ‘manage’ homelessness, could enhance their services by providing meaningful activities, which are a piece of the puzzle in allowing people to move themselves out of homelessness.