Across Britain, it’s estimated around 320,000 people are homeless and, with this number rising each year, it can be difficult to know how to help. Believe it or not, you can start by simply clearing through your bathroom cabinet says Shelley Morris, chairperson of Bournemouth-based homeless charity Second Chance.
For many of us, the first thing we look forward to in the morning is a shower, but for rough sleepers, regular access to running water isn’t always an option. Government cuts have impacted the services offered to vulnerable people across the UK, resulting in an increase in homelessness and, with less help available from the government, many charities and organisations are having to take up the slack.
Shelley Morris is a chairperson, support and outreach worker at Second Chance, an unfunded charity that supports homeless people. Shelley and much of her team have day jobs on top of their work for Second Chance, meaning they work around the clock to provide support. The charity helps homeless people who have fallen through the net, ensuring they get the aid available by putting pressure on agencies to do their job. She says:
“We are a linking agency between council housing, private housing and other agencies, supporting people each step of the way until they don’t need us anymore. We act as a lifeline, keeping our phones on 24 hours a day and offering as much advice and assistance as we can.”
As well as helping with administration and advice, Shelley is a big believer in the difference personal care items and a little bit of pampering can make to people’s confidence and wellbeing. Working in partnership with local barbers and Lush, Second Chance regularly holds free hairdressing events for the homeless.
Proven to improve mental wellbeing, haircuts can also help those with disrupted routines claim back a little normality. These events serve as a safe space, where people can step away from their situation for a couple of hours and are treated with respect and compassion.
Shelley says: “We really see the difference it makes to people’s days. When they have their hair done with different Lush products the smell is very therapeutic. The event takes people away from their difficulties, letting them focus on themselves for a while.”
Here’s where you come in. Our bathroom cabinets can quickly become overcrowded, but before you go full Marie Kondo on your toiletries, unwanted shampoos and other cosmetics can make a difference.
As well as events, Second Chance collects donations of non-perishable food items, warm clothing, sleeping bags and toiletries. So, instead of flinging your unloved cosmetics in the dustbin, you can give them to someone who needs them. While cosmetics such as shower gels may seem like everyday essentials to some, to others these products are a luxury.
Shelley explains: “It can be a reminder of how things were before they were in this situation, pulling people back a bit and reminding them where they want to be. Even though it may seem like quite a small thing to some, we really see the difference these items can make.”
Feeling clean should be a right, not a privilege, but sadly this isn’t always the case. You can help to change that. If you have some extra toiletries you would like to donate, you can find plenty of charities online who will gladly accept them. Many organisations will take gently used products, but please treat this guideline with respect - if you wouldn’t give it to a friend, don’t donate it.
If you’re local to Bournemouth, you can find out more about the work Second Chance do and donate your unused toiletries and other items here.