Around 40 people joined Quaker Social Action for an evening meeting on 17 March to discuss responses to homelessness, including presentations from QSA's Claire Brandon and from Rachel Woolf, the founder and director of Street Storage.
The meeting was entitled "responding to homelessness - pursuing your own path" and was aimed at people who are concerned about homelessness, including those who are considering taking action to help homeless people as part of a local Quaker meeting or other group.
Claire Brandon of QSA summarised the research she has undertaken to inform the development of QSA's own homelessness services, following the merger with Quaker Homeless Action in December 2020 - a report from this research can be found here. Claire outlined two initial London-based projects which QSA will be taking forward when lockdown easing allows: Turn a Corner which is based upon Quaker Homeless Action's mobile library; and Cook Up which will provide a space (in Islington) for people who do not have access to a kitchen to prepare meals.
Rachel Woolf then gave an inspiring presentation about Street Storage, a unique organisation which she founded in London in 2019. Street Storage addresses one of the key problems faced by people experiencing homelessness: where to safely store essential possessions and documents. Street Storage starts from the premise "imagine if you had to leave your home overnight. What would you take with you?" Rachel provided a compelling account of how, when people experiencing homelessness suffer the loss or theft of essential documents or possessions, it frequently derails their efforts to access services or to go through the official processes required to move forward. Street Storage provides safe storage for people's documents and possessions, off the street in a secure space, which people can access by appointment or drop in, in the safety of a staffed environment. Rachel is passionate about replicating the Street Storage model around the UK, in partnership with others.
The overall purpose of this event was to gauge the level of interest in some kind of information sharing forum, for Quakers and others who are interested in taking practical action to help people affected by homelessness. At QSA we are very encouraged by the enthusiastic response to this initial meeting, in which a number of participants shared their own ideas and initiatives. We will soon share our thoughts on how this forum could be taken forward.
Excerpts from a recording of the meeting will be available on our website soon.