November 27, 2020, by Emma Thorne
Nottingham prof leads initiative to help tackle homelessness
This winter, the Covid-19 pandemic will leave even more people homeless and in desperate need of support. University academic Dr Paul Scotting, in the School of Life Sciences, talks about his role in helping to launch Street Support Nottingham, an exciting new initiative connecting people and organisations locally to tackle homelessness, and how volunteering has become such an important part of his life.
Throughout my 30 years as an academic carrying out research and teaching in the biological sciences at the University of Nottingham, I have felt a need to do something about the social inequities in my adopted home city. But the demands of an academic career and family duties never really allowed me to do this to the extent I wanted. So, a few years ago, I took flexible retirement to allow me to spend time on my ‘other interests’.
Because of my love of nature and everything outdoors, I started by volunteering with the Nature in Mind programme running out of the charity Framework. I spent several years driving a minibus about once a month taking groups of vulnerable people all over the region to benefit for spending time in green spaces. I was also able to make links between this and the OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) project in School of Life Sciences so that we had numerous visits to the university campus and experts from the University jojned the group on some of their other outings. The pleasure I found in supporting these people led me to find other volunteering opportunities such as the Winter Shelter and the Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum, and my wife and I also started hosting young homeless people and later refuges and asylum seekers in our home through the charities Open homes and HOST Nottingham.
My involvement with this broad range of organisations has also allowed me to apply the organizational skills I developed during my career at the University, and it was this that led me to set up the Nottingham Homelessness Voluntary Sector Forum, an informal group where representatives from most of Nottingham’s homelessness organizations can meet once a month (albeit online at present!). That was two years ago, and since then we have achieved quite a lot. In particular we were instrumental in drafting Nottingham’s five year Homelessness Strategy Document.
One stop shop
We have recently embarked on our most ambitious inter-organizational enterprise; the establishment of the Street Support Nottingham website –www.streetsupport.net/Nottingham/ – which is being launched this month throughout Nottingham and the Boroughs of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe.
This new initiative provides a ‘one stop shop’ to find or give support for homeless people in our region. The website provides links for people who are homeless to find all the services they might need, from accommodation and hot meals through to mental health support and legal advice. It also provides links for members of the public to donate items such as clothes or food, time in volunteering opportunities or money to local homelessness charities. Street Support Nottingham will enable homeless people to find the information they need quickly and easily, reducing the time they might need to sleep on the streets and helping to protect them from the risks associated with begging and sleeping rough. It will also enable those wanting to help to find organisations through which to give their time or donations. I am hugely grateful to the National Lottery Community Fund and to Boots for their financial support to launch this scheme.
Can you offer a helping hand?
I still work one day a week, delivering lectures on brain development and cancer biology for the School of Life Sciences. I really enjoy having this link to the University, my colleagues in the School of Life Sciences and to the undergraduate student community, hopefully helping to enrich the educational experience of those students. I look forward to many more years combining these two activities that are so close to my heart.
This year the Covid crisis means there are far more people finding themselves homeless and its tougher out there with fewer people to help. So please spread the word about Street Support Nottingham, visit the website, and consider whether you can do anything to help the less fortunate people of Nottingham during the hardest winter that many of them will ever have encountered.