I've just spent three months meeting people with first-hand experience of rough sleeping. My book profiles many of them, together with those working to help them get their lives back on track. Nobody sets out to become homeless or to sleep in a shop doorway. Should you put some coins into that outstretched hand?
You probably don’t have three months to spare, so cannot follow in my footsteps. But you can read the book. This is your opportunity to gain an insight into the causes and consequences of rough sleeping and homelessness.
With your help, we will produce 1,500 copies of the book. Once your copy has been posted to you, the remaining copies will be on sale in the city and online, with all the money going to St Martins, a Norwich charity that helps the homeless build a better life.
Two anonymous sponsors have agreed to match your investment pound for pound until our target is reached. This means that when the campaign has raised £3,000, they will give £3,000 too.
Every penny over this will be given to St Martins, to support their work with people who find themselves homeless.
Your book will be posted out late November, so you will have it in good time for Christmas.
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.
The idea for the book came about when I 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, I decided to find out the facts for myself, and then share them in a book.
Already a published non-fiction author, this will be the first of what I hope will be a series of books, each exploring an aspect of inequality in our society. I believe that by reading the stories of those who have experienced hardship, we can all become more inclusive, compassionate and socially responsible.
Once we reach our target, and all the books have been sold, we will have raised more than £10,000 for St Martins. Perhaps more importantly, we will know that 1,500 people now understand homelessness a little better.
If we exceed our crowdfunding target, we will continue and every penny raised will go to support the work that St Martins does with homeless people.
The book will be available on Amazon, in both print and e-book formats. Whilst it’s been written about homelessness in Norwich, it could be about any city. People find themselves sleeping rough the world over.