Exploding the Myths About Homelessness

It’s tough enough being homeless without having the feeling that some people see homelessness as a problem of their own making. 

If you’re considering donating or volunteering, you might find our response to these questions helpful.

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“what sort of people do you class as homeless?”

Anyone who does not live in a place intended for occupation that they have a legal right to live in.  We would classify people living in tents, sheds, vehicles, squats etc as homeless.

“I’ve heard that some people begging in Lewes actually have homes they can go to.  Is this true?”

Most people who regularly beg on the streets of Lewes are homeless. Sometimes people living on the street are occasionally able to sleep at a friend’s, but that is not their home. However, even some who have housing have financial needs that require them to supplement their income by begging.

“I want to give money to people on the street, but I’m worried they’d go and spend it on drugs or alcohol - do they?” 

They might. Or they might spend it on food or accommodation. You will never know.

As the founder of User Voice, a charity led and staffed by former homeless addicts, says: “If your money funds the final hit, accept that the person would rather be dead. If your act of kindness makes him wake up the next morning and decide to change his life, that’s nice but not your business either.”

Here’s an interesting Guardian article on this subject.

“isn’t it the government’s job to help the homeless?”

It is - and the 2018 Homelessness Reduction Act aims to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027. However, like all strategic initiatives it will take time to get moving and areas with high levels of homelessness, such as London and Brighton, will be prioritised.  Until then, cuts to funding mean that local government can do less, which is where voluntary organisations like ours can help.

“homeless people choose to drop out and take drugs and alcohol - why should I help them?”

Homelessness is rarely a choice.  It’s often the result of circumstances that could affect any of us - redundancy, relationship breakdown or a mental health crisis.  It’s true that many rough sleepers use alcohol or drugs, or suffer from addiction.  It can be a way of helping them tolerate a dreadful situation.

“Is it true that rough sleepers get a special benefit for keeping a dog?”

No, they don’t.  Simple as that. In fact, many rough sleepers put their dog first in terms of spending money on food. Organisations like Street Vet help rough sleepers with their dogs’ health needs and avoid unaffordable vet bills.

“is there a night shelter in Lewes?” 

There's not, but Lewes Open Door homeless centre is planning to open one in November 2019.  It will run for at least five nights a week and rotate around different premises in the town.  Please contact us if you’d like to volunteer.

More information about our plans for the Winter Night Shelter are available here.

“I’d like to volunteer, but I’m concerned that I might find some of your guests challenging”

The great majority of our guests are friendly, polite and appreciative of our volunteers. Of course there are occasional difficulties - there would be in any organisation.  We always have at least two volunteers present, often three, and a quiet word usually calms things down.  

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Coming to Open Door means I’ve met so many people in Lewes. I can’t walk down the street without someone saying Hello!”
— guest
 
 

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