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Film highlights homelessness challenge in Norwich

A special screening of highly acclaimed film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ was shown in Norwich on August 17. Prior to the film, people who have experienced homelessness spoke about their journey through the ‘system’ and the desperate need for more support.
Helen Baldry reports


The event at Cinema City was organised by local Christian charity Hope Into Action, who provides supported accommodation to vulnerable adults who would otherwise be homeless. Through links with local churches, they house 20 people in Norwich ranging from refugees to those recovering from addiction.
Michael from City Reach, a medical centre in Norwich that treats vulnerable people, gave some hard-hitting statistics on rough sleeping in Norwich. In 2014, 34 rough sleepers were identified in Norwich on a count . In the first three months of this year, 136 separate individuals were identified.  The average age of death for a homeless man is 47 and 43 for a female rough sleeper. City The most common cause of homelessness is relationship breakdown.
Jon from Hope Into Action explained that people motivate others to bring about positive change in their lives. The two speakers who told about their homelesness and addictions, Graham and Donald, confirmed that genuine human connection, and the right help at the time it is needed – rather than at stages along the way – can make all the difference.
Graham explained that he always felt different. At the age of six he was dropped off at his nanny’s house and his mother said to him, “If I had you first, I woudn’t have had any more” [children] That comment has stayed with him for a lifetime. He has never settled and has had numerous relationships. He has been homeless a number of times, even living in his car for 18 months. Graham took a massive overdose of anxiety and depression medication. He was told he could not be helped because his his mental health made him intentionally homeless. Graham’s vulnerability meant that he was unable to challenge the council’s position. He didn’t know that he could until St Martins stepped in and helped him get some supported housing.
Graham said, “My life changed the moment I walked into City Reach.” He had seen many doctors in the past who had not enaged with him and had looked away from him at their computers before brushing him aside. This time he was asked one queston, “How are you?” That was the catalyst for getting help.
Graham believes that relationship was at the centre of the big turning points in his life. He now volunteers at City Reach and he champions people’s causes. He said, “I just want to give back a little bit of what I got. If I can change one person’s life it will make mine worthwhile.”
Donald also shared his story. Born in a ex ship-building area on the West Coast of Scotland, Donald grew up in a place where unemployment and poverty was rife. By the age of 18 he had a serious cocaine addiction and was dealing in the drug to the extent that his life was in danger and he had to leave Scotland. He moved to the South of France and got clean, but the lure of drugs became too much and he returned to crack addiction. His work in the yachting industry in France led him to travel to Antigua, where he met someone who had worked at Bishopbridge House in Norwich. When he returned to the UK in 2003, he came to Norwich and was rehoused in 2004. It took Donald years to feel truly settled and make his house like a home. Donald’s cycle of coming though and then falling back seemed to be on repeat and he couldn’t accept the idea that he could be successful and not revert back to drugs. He then had counselling which helped him to confront these issues. 
Donald now has a key role in ensuring the voices of hard to reach groups can be heard, with the overall aim of further improving services for vulnerable people.

Hope Into Action, who organised the evening, held a fundraising raffle and collection – but the main purpose was to bring people together and to have a open conversation about the issues affecting homeless people.  The film highlighted many of the issues faced by the charity’s tenants.
For further information about Hope Into Action contact 01603927271

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Click below to view the trailer for 'I, Daniel Blake'

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