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“A home is not a luxury; it is a non-negotiable necessity.”

Drawings by participants from StreetsFest
Participants at StreetsFest respond to the question - what does home mean to you?

Amnesty UK interviewed Ellie, about her experience of homelessness.  

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I recently graduated with a masters in Classics, and I am currently working as a Librarian. I have dedicated this year to carry out various training activities such as first aid, fire marshal training and a Librarian Chartership. To those who are experiencing homelessness, ordinary activities often feel unattainable. The many goals I have achieved thus far once seemed virtually impossible to me, for example, participation in the arts community, and language learning. I will also be taking piano lessons.

Can you tell us about your experience of homelessness?

At the age of fourteen I began sofa-surfing by staying with family and friends which comprised of sleeping on their floors and wearing their hand-me-downs. At sixteen I moved into my first of three homeless shelters and within the next year, my brother (fifteen), had been kicked out of our family home and was staying with me. I kept my little brother in my homeless shelter because I truly believed that he was safer with me than with our family or out on the streets. I had no heating; no locks and my windows did not close. It made me mentally and physically unwell, but I would have lived there for the rest of my life if it meant my brother would never have to.

What do you think needs to change to make the right to a safe home a reality for all? 

We are heavily reliant on charities to access housing, but if all the charities were to end, the homelessness crisis would become insurmountable. This is because current legislation inadequately protects people at risk of homelessness. Amendments to ambiguous laws could provide a basic safety net for those facing an already dehumanising situation and prevent many people experiencing homelessness from being turned away from charity-based organisations.

A ‘priority need’ ignores the demand to provide housing to everyone and often fails to protect the people in the categories that it covers. For example, youth aged 16-17 fall into a priority category, but this immediately ends upon turning 18, leaving many young people experiencing homelessness unprotected and vulnerable. No one should be expected to meet societal standards (e.g., working) before their basic needs are met and maintained. It is the bare minimum. A home is not a luxury; it is a non-negotiable necessity.

What does the concept of home mean to you?

The term “homeless person” sums up my experience well because that is exactly what you are, homeless before you are regarded as a person. Having a home gives you a plethora of privileges that you probably never knew you had. When you become homeless you lose a lot more than just a home. It is likely that you will experience chronic illnesses, employment/educational issues, relationship breakdowns and substance misuse. You are at an increased risk of many types of abuse and are even at an increased risk of premature death. The concept of a home to me, is a symbol of no longer having to endure those negative experiences. The concept of a ‘home’ to someone with one, tends to be all the things they have or want. The concept of a home to someone experiencing homelessness, is all the things they do not have but need.

Take action to make the right to a home a reality for all!

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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