Today I travelled backwards in time. 23 years ago, a less hairy version of me volunteered with the Simon Community in London. The project got alongside destitute people, went for meals with them, and supported them, even when other agencies had banned them from their hostels or given up on them. I remember that we used to be given cigarettes to offer out to those we met on the streets, as a way of getting to know them!
At a meeting at Trafalgar House, the central police station, I discovered that the Simon Community is now called 'Simon On the Street' and I met up with Helena and Mat, who are starting an outreach project on the streets of Bradford.
Bradford is now recognised as having one of the worst homelessness problems in Yorkshire, with a growing number of rough sleepers in the city centre. If people are barred from the limited facilities available to them in the city (for drinking or being abusive) then they are often simply abandoned. 'Simon In the Street' don't have anywhere to bar people from, and work with the destitute through thick and thin.
At Desmond Tutu House, we are going to do all we can to support this worthwhile project. It inspired me when I was 18 years old, and little has changed (with the exception of the giving out free cigarettes!)