IN CONVERSATION : KELLY IN CATCHING LIVES, CANTERBURY

 

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Kelly and a colleague outside Catching Lives’ shop in Canterbury.

 

AUDIO Coming soon

Kelly Napier tells me about Catching Lives and the housing crisis.


TRANSCRIPT

JO: So, I’ve walked into a shop with …

KN: Kelly Napier

JO: and you are from an organisation called Catching Lives

KN: Catching Lives … that’s right … we are a homeless day centre in Canterbury

JO: yes … and is that the main function of the institution

KN: absolutely .. yes

JO: so it gives them .. what happens ? What is it providing them with?

KN: it’s open from 08:30 in the morning until 2pm in the afternoon … for clients to access … they can come and have breakfast and lunch … they can wash their clothes … have a shower … they can access mental health services … they can also access a nurse service as well

JO: that sounds rather good …

KN: it is … it’s a fantastic little one stop shop and provides a great amount of help … to the community …

JO: how long has it been here?

KN: over 20 years now, I think …

JO: so it’s really well established

KN: do you know that?

3rdP: I’m not sure exactly

KN: I’m not sure exactly either … it’s very well established, yes … it’s an independent charity …

JO: yes … I mean … I mean I wrestle myself with … you know … should charity need to exist

KN: well, essentially we should be there to exist to put ourselves out of business shouldn’t we?

JO: yes

KN: that’s ultimately what we should be doing … striving for …

JO: yes

KN: but the numbers are increasing dramatically, year on year, so that’s not going to happen in the near time future

JO: this is what I’ve been hearing all round the country and from professionals as well as from the homeless themselves … locals can see … can sense what is going on …

KN: yes … it’s a dire picture … unless people start building houses … nothing is going to change either … and these things are only going to get worse because of the benefit reform that’s coming up .. with universal credit where you are actually giving everybody their entire money for a month and expecting them to pay their bills when people who have had mental health issues that struggle with that … there’s … going to be evicted … so, it’s just this vicious circle at the moment

JO: so you would say .. this is one way .. as part of this project, I am trying to for myself … before I put my shoulder to the wheel … I’ve gone through a sort of midlife, topsy turvy period so I’m sort of reconfiguring

KN: ok

JO: and deciding how to use my energy … for myself, I am trying to work out how many ways there are for people … productive ways to protect people … so if you are not content to just do … just do is putting it the wrong way … if you are not content to leave things at … that’s not putting it the right way either … if you are looking to do something that gets called direct action … i.e a bit more than just vote or be an activist … in other ways … you can actually use your moral and physical presence in other ways, can’t you … so this is one way you can protect people that wouldn’t require anything of the sort of thing I’ve seen in like Lancashire … where they are stopping people from fracking …

KN: right

JO: that’s a bit different isn’ it, because there you are potentially breaching the law …

KN: it is a bit different, yes …

JO: so this is a way of protecting people within …

KN: within their environment … really … making it easier …

JO: … but within the law, as well …

KN: within the law, yes … the other way … the other thing that we do as well .. we use Campaign Kent, which is a community interest company …

JO: right …

KN: and they …

JO: that’s interesting …

KN: and they will talk to … I’m the Director of that … we talk to clients and take evidence and impact statements from them and then we identify trends in what’s going on in our area … and then we campaign against those …

JO: that’s very interesting …

KN: one of the big partnership campaigns that we’ve got going on with Catching Lives at the moment is prison release to street homelessness … and the ridiculousness of that and how much money it costs our community to have this recidivism all the time and it doesn’t solve anything … it just keeps … the costs just get greater and greater … the prisons get fuller and fuller … and actually putting somebody who is stealing for need rather than for greed … although it is still law breaking, when you have got somebody who is taking heroin prolifically, for example, they are stealing because they need to get a fix … rather than putting those people in prison, detoxing them, and then letting them out after a short period of time, with money, and a travel warrant back to their dealer’s postcode … what you could do is put them in rehab … it would save money because it’s cheaper than prison in the long run … it’s not rocket science really …

JO: it doesn’t sound terribly complicated, does it?

KN: it doesn’t, does it? … but the resources say no … so that’s something that we are campaigning about at the moment … and also about discharge from hospitals … be it mental heath hospitals or physical health hospitals … to street homelessness …

JO: yes

KN: and that happens an awful lot here … so they are two of the main campaigns …

JO: so … is this … I’ll try and keep that in mind … I’ll try and come back to it … ’cause I do sort of want to end up with a sense of what institutions there should be everywhere … if people are looking for something to do … and there’s a gap … so …

KN: there should be a daycentre in every town, I believe …

JO: yes … so there’s … for example .. if you’re …

KN: or support … in every town …

JO: so that’s .. so this is doing things that the legal structure provides for … provided people

KN: have money …

JO: want to do it and put resources into it, yes?

KN: absolutely …

JO: ok … so you can provide all these services to the homeless … but you can’t give them

a place to sleep the night …

KN: no

JO: that’s by definition … that’s the problem …. yes?

KN: there are no overnight shelters in Kent … there are zero …

JO: nothing in Kent at all?

KN: no

JO: is that something …

KN: unless it is between the 1st of December and the 28th of February … and that’s when the churches come together and put the winter night shelters on …

JO: ok … so it’s seasonal effectively ..

KN: so that nobody has a night out … absolutely, it’s a winter night shelter … that’s all it’s for

JO: yes

KN: there are no day centres in Kent … sorry .. there are no

JO: night shelters

KN: night shelters in Kent, at all

JO: ok … ’cause I live in Bath … or I have lived in Bath … I probably won’t stay there but there are night shelters there … and there are some day facilities but it’s still … it’s still inadequate …

KN: it’s inadequate … until people start building houses … this is always going to be ..

JO: it comes back to that, yes?

KN: that’s … you know … we can do whatever we can do but …

JO: are you somebody that would say that, by right, people ought to have a home?

KN: absolutely … I agree with that …

JO: as a moral

KN: yes

JO: principle …

KN: yes … and the thing is that they are now talking about Housing First … which is a new concept where you put people in a house before anything else happens … so that they are safe and have an environment and they’re able to [ ] certain mental health programmes and things like that … but you have to have the resources around that Housing First .. that have to be strong … and it has to be nurtured and it also has to have an awful lot of money put into it .. and then you can build communities of practice for people so that everybody knows exactly what they are doing and the pathway is very clear …

JO: so, I am not clear about that … Housing First is what?

KN: Housing First is a new concept … it’s not a new concept .. it is a concept that has been brought into the realms of local authorities at the moment, whereby people are given a property first

JO: right

KN: whereas before you had to jump through fiery hoops and get your mental health sorted and all the rest of it …. make all these changes

JO: which is … nonsense …

KN: which is ridiculous when you’re leading a chaotic lifestyle .. on the street

JO: ’cause I’m technically homeless now …

KN: right

JO: I’ve been saying to people I’m not in anything like as severe a position as you

KN: it’s all relative …

JO: but I now have an inkling of how destabilising it is not to have an address as such

KN: absolutely …

JO: your own front door … and there’s a .. I think there’s a website called The Rent Eats First

KN: right …

JO: which is expressing the primacy

KN: I’ll have to look that up …

JO: the primacy of having a dwelling …

KN: yes … you should look up the Housing First model …

JO: yes ..

KN: because it’s interesting …

JO: so it’s a model … it’s a policy model … sort of …

KN: it’s a government policy model … and it’s really interesting because everyone is going “this is brilliant!” … “everyone is going to have a home” …

JO: yes

KN: but you’ve just heard there’s a guy out on the street that I was just talking to … he’s been homeless for 9 years and he goes and sleeps rough at night sometimes because he can’t deal with being in his home … so there has to be that level of support once somebody is accommodated …

JO: this is what Simone who I spoke to .. who is homeless in Cambridge … said …. she said I think she said it’s “disgusting” that people are left out here so long that they find it hard to actually go into a home …

KN: it’s like being institutionalised …

JO: if one becomes available … yes

KN: and how bizarre is that? In … what year are we in?

JO: it’s horrendous, isn’t it? Yes. It’s horrendous.

KN: it’s crazy ..

JO: so you can form institutions if you can get the resources together to provide day facilities … you potentially

KN: you need to do that on the basis of evidence … if you have … if you know that in your area … there are nothing … there is nothing to support somebody sleeping rough or a group of people sleeping rough … then you need to do a needs analysis on that … and then work out what the day centre actually needs to provide … it’s all well and good opening up and giving people tea and toast but …

JO: and the same would be true of the night shelter … situation

KN: yes …

JO: but what we are talking about is stuff to put an elatoplast over an inadequate policy framework

KN: yes

JO: … how are we going to make that policy framework what it ought to be? In a short space of time?

KN: By listening to those that are vulnerable .. and listening to what they need .. and trying to work towards what people actually need … rather than a bunch of government people sitting there who have never had any experience of any kind of poverty making decisions for people that … you know … don’t work ….

JO: so .. if I said to you … “right .. I’m making you responsible for Kent ..Sort everyone out for housing” …

KN: yes

JO: what … go mad …

KN: as much money as I want, yes?

JO: it’s a resource question, yes? It’s basically building .. homes

KN: build the properties for people to live in ..

JO: yes

KN: social housing has to be reinstated in a big way …

JO: so .. just to finish up … ’cause I don’t want to hog too much of your time … but what’s going to make that happen? How can people make that happen?

KN: by shouting it from the rooftops … you have to campaign about these things … you have to be heard … and what people don’t understand is that … behind every statistic .. I could throw a load at you right now .. but behind every statistic .. there’s an individual … and that individual needs to be heard … that’s my advice …

JO: yes …

KN: you need to talk to the people that are actually experiencing this issue .. and find out what it is they need …

JO: but more broadly … it sounds like you need .. you’re asking people to be more engaged and active and demanding

KN: yes .. absolutely …

JO: what ought to be …

KN: absolutely … we’re only two pay cheques away from homelessness ourselves .. so .. you know .. rather than thinking “I’m alright Jack!” … people should be looking at the bigger picture … and realising that it’s our communities … you know … that need this help …

JO: yes

KN: these people are part of our communities

JO: yes …that’s how I feel …

KN: yes

JO: good … that’s very, very useful … very interesting …

KN: nice talking to you …

JO: thanks very much


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