Today I got back from the printers 1000 leaflets titled “are you sleeping rough – places to go for help and advice in Southend” (which can also be download here), paid for by a local councilor friend who I recently lost a bet to.
This leaflet has been doing the rounds for a number of years now, although it was last updated two years ago. While there hasn’t been too many major changes since then there have been numerous minor changes and errors to correct, making an update long overdue. I decided to bite the bullet a few weeks back and go back to answering the question that I imagine a person who finds him(her)self rough sleeping might want answering, realizing the system is convoluted and individual circumstances differ and to get the right information to present to the reader I had to ask around.
But now the leaflet is out (having been delivered to my door by my helpful local printer in the past two hours – see here) and uploaded onto the Internet so anyone can download their own copy of what amounts to a double sided A4 PDF file that needs to be printed so the final product is a 4 page A5 booklet. Alternatively, you can get copies from me (if you can get hold of me) or from SAVS or HARP. While the leaflet may help in the department of “leading a horse to water” it cannot force the horse to drink. Neither does it provide a road map of what steps might be taken if one finds oneself homeless or fully compensate for gaps in the system. Even so it does provide loads of useful information within space constraints, some of which will be useful to any rough sleeper or those who seek to help them.
I am reminded of the old adage “knowledge is power” which was told to me in the early 2000’s when I first got involved in community related information gathering. It became apparent then there was a gap when it came to answering a related question to that of the title, and that was to do with mental health. The culmination to that project was the Southend Mental Health Directory, which went to the third edition in 2005 and has not been updated since (see here). During my time as a community activist I have noted repeatedly not only gaps concerning providing timely information on available services etc. but when that information does become available it is not kept up to date and thus loses value over the years.
These days printing is comparatively cheap and we have the added boon of computer technology and Internet access, making the pathway for getting hold of and distributing information that much easier. Even so, my take is we are long way off from cracking the problem of making available comprehensive information that will benefit those who need it and, while every now and then people have that light bulb moment that providing relevant information is good, often what is provided is a short term and limited fix to a long term and bigger problem. In my dotage, I am not putting myself forward for undertaking this essential yet time consuming and financially non lucrative venture other than making available this leaflet, which I know will do what it says at the top: provide relevant, up to date information on “places to go for help and advice in Southend” should one be in the unfortunate position of having to sleep rough.