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What does home mean to you? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 18 July 2014 10:02

home isThe average number of rough sleepers found on outreach sessions in Southampton has doubled since 2008, but addressing homelessness is about much more than putting a roof over someone’s head, says Hannah Stewart from local charity The Society of St James.


What does home mean to you? That was the question we asked our Twitter followers a while ago. We got some responses that made us laugh (‘A cat or furry creature’, ‘A 60” 3D TV & a Smeg fridge, obvs’) but most of the replies shared a common theme- safety, stability and security:

‘A home is somewhere comfortable and safe, where I can be with my family’

‘Warm, comfortable, safe’


‘My books, bedding and when it smells like home’

‘Not the way it looks, but the way it feels. Ease & comfort’

The idea of ‘home’ is about much more than a building. It’s easy to get the impression that addressing homelessness is all about putting a roof over someone’s head. But people who are homeless are often contending with a whole range of issues, including mental health problems, drug or alcohol addiction, and past or current involvement with criminal activity. 33% of homeless people use drugs, 32% have mental health problems, 27% have a history of offending and 28% have a combination of these.

‘We focus on giving people the tools & skills they need to build a secure, stable future’

These are issues that can lead to feelings of insecurity, tension, danger, unease and fear - everything that ‘home’ isn’t. Addressing these underlying issues is essential for someone to change their life for the better.

Offering shelter just first step

The Society of St James started in 1972, as a group of volunteers from a collection of churches who opened up a church hall to accommodate 11 homeless men. Many of the men we worked with in those early days were struggling with heavy drinking, and the team realised very quickly that offering shelter was just the first step. Over the years, as we worked with people to find how we could best support them as individuals, we began to provide support with drug and alcohol addictions, mental health problems, employment and training.

Taking risks

We’ve taken some risks along the way. We set up Southampton’s first ‘wet houses’, providing accommodation for homeless people whose alcohol addiction meant that they were unable to stay in other hostels in the city. When we realised that some of the older people we support needed more care than our hostels and shared houses could provide, but couldn’t find a care home that would cater for their alcohol addiction and mental health issues, we set up our own care home.

‘The average number of rough sleepers found on outreach sessions in Southampton has doubled since 2008’

Now, SSJ works with over 2500 people across Hampshire. We focus on giving people the tools and skills that they need to build a secure, stable future for themselves. This might involve entering into recovery for addictions, volunteering with us, or gaining work experience through our social enterprise Jamie’s Computers.

We encounter a lot of stereotypes about the people that we work with. They are accused of being ‘wasters’, ‘scroungers’ and ‘slackers’, people who want to take from society without giving anything back. And yet, so often when I chat with the people that SSJ supports, their ambitions are to find work and give something back.

Dan has been supported by SSJ to recover from drug addiction and get back into employment. He spoke about the impact of getting back into work on his self-confidence:

“I have a support mechanism, people to talk to and share any problems I increased my confidence and self-worth as I made new friends and had new people to chat with. The work placement and now my job has given me a reason to get up in the morning.”

Amelia started drinking heavily at the age of fifteen and went on to use cocaine for nine years before entering recovery. She wanted to give something back and help others, so started volunteering for us:

“I felt like I had found somewhere that I finally fitted in. I was able to build on my confidence and this led to me being able to gain paid employment as a relief worker for SSJ.”

Matt spent time in an SSJ hostel but is now living independently and doing a job that he loves:

“I am looking forward to achieving my life goal, which is a simple one because I am a simple person - to have my own flat or house with a job to provide for my family.”

Dan, Amelia and Matt have achieved much more than just a roof over their heads. They have worked hard to develop stability, security and safety in their lives, and so have found ‘home’ in the truest sense of the word.

You can help people like Dan, Amelia, and Matt to build a better future. Click here to donate now, or here to find out more about us and other ways of getting involved.

Homelessness is an increasing issue in our local community, with the average number of rough sleepers found on outreach sessions in Southampton doubling since 2008. There is still a lot of work to be done. But at SSJ, we continue to believe that everyone has the right to a home, and the ability to transform their lives for the better.

Hannah Stewart

To find out more about SSJ, visit:



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