Local author Robert Ashton has spent three months this summer meeting people with first-hand experience of rough sleeping. This includes homeless people supported by St Martins, team members, trustees and people from other charities. Robert has written up these interviews into a book which gives insight into the causes and consequences of rough sleeping and homelessness.
The idea for the book came about when Robert realised that many people want to do something to help the homeless, but don’t know what or how. A Quaker, motivated by a desire to see greater equality, Robert decided to find out the facts for himself, and then share them in a book.He has launched a crowdfunding campaign to get the book produced, and all proceeds will go to St Martins, which we will use to provide more accommodation and support for rough sleepers in Norwich.
Robert said, “We can all be too quick to make assumptions about the people we meet as we go about our day to day lives. This is especially true of those we encounter sitting in a shop doorway with their sleeping bag and maybe a dog. They may ask if you have any spare change. Do you reach into your pocket, or do you turn and walk away? What is the right thing to do?
The fact is that nobody sets out to become homeless or to sleep rough. Circumstances conspire against them, leaving them vulnerable, frightened, lonely and often abused. I wanted to understand what led people to live on the street. I wanted to know what help was out there and most importantly, how I and others could help.
I spent summer 2019 out and about in Norwich talking with people who have slept rough. I also met people whose job it is to help people who find themselves homeless. I learned a lot over those weeks, gaining a unique insight into one of the saddest problems facing our society today.
Buying this book will help St Martins to help others. Reading it will help you better understand the issue. It might even help you decide what to do when someone in a doorway asks you if you have any spare change.”