Tag Archives: hostels

The Night is Long Without a Home

Blanket in doorway by EW

The Night is Long Without a Home is an exhibition of photographs by Ian Usher, documentary photographer and artist of homeless hostel residents and workers – in their own words.

In fact, the title is from a description by John of the loss and sorrow of homelessness.

The exhibition is organised by a few of us on behalf of Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association.

Due to drastic council cuts, the hostel residents may lose their hostel homes, and be made homeless again.

How many people would you say are homeless in your city?

According to Bristol city, only nine (this sometimes rises to 11).

This does not make sense. Alan Goddard, who runs a soup kitchen feeding about 600 every day in Bristol, says the number must be over 100.

I see evidence of people sleeping rough every day. Image

I remember before the 1980s, the only people you saw sleeping rough, were tramps – gentlemen of the road. But since then it has all changed – we see young people on the streets.

How can this happen in one of the richest countries in the world?

The UN makes visits to two countries every year to report on problems. This year, it was the UK’s turn because of its housing crisis. Here is the UN rapporteur’s report.

Empty offices lie empty, testaments of investment – while our youth sleep in doorways without prospect of employment or home.

If ONLY our society believed in kindness.

If ONLY our society understood that prevention is more effective (and less costly) than cure.

Give vulnerable people a stable home and a bit of support, and you cut down on other, more expensive, services, such as hospitals and prisons.

How we treat our homeless tells us all we need to know about the world we live in.

What has this to do with food? I mean, this is a food blog, right?

Plum compote and yogurt with expresso at Canteen by EW

Well, here is a breakfast (stewed plums and granola and yogurt with an expresso) I had last week at The Canteen in Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, Bristol.

OK, quick diversion as I explain link between Hamilton House and homelessness.

Hamilton House was a defunct office block the council planners wanted to demolish – now turned into a groovesome hub of creative activities run by Coexist. (I am proud to say my office is here, along with 200 other tenants, including Afrika Eye Film Festival, and Tribe of Doris).

Hamilton House’s visionary social landlord, Connolly & Callaghan, is also the key benefactor of Bristol Foundation Housing homeless hostels.

Bristol Foundation Housing houses and supports single people who would otherwise fall through the net, people who need support to break the homeless cycle but are not considered sufficiently ‘high priority need’ for emergency accommodation by Bristol City Council.

Working with the Probation Services and others around Bristol, BFH has reduced re-offending rates by more than 50%, probably saving the taxpayer some £20 million each year.

These are the hostels that had their funding lifeline cut in August. This (free) photographic exhibition features BFH hostel residents and workers, in their own words.

Hope you can get along to the exhibition in Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY which opens tonight and runs until 9 pm, 5 November.

And please do sign the Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association petition at Change.org.


Top Chef DC – real-life reality food

Back in the UK.

Blog-mind filled with unwritten posts.

Like that Tuesday in Washington DC.

We’d been on the Amtrak train since 5.30am Sunday morning

– passed Gallup and our Dine (Navajo) friends (another blog to come)

– woke that morning in Kansas station where I stretched my legs in the light and sun

– ate three meals a day in the dining car and watched Amerika‘s gigantic land roll by.

Planned to do the tourist thing at Washington DC.

Its railway station heralded grandeur.

But by the time we reached our hostel, we were exhausted.

After two days of train-rocking, all we wanted was stillness.

A night-in.

What a night-in!

Turned out we were in the funkiest hostel in the funkiest part of town.

On a empty parking lot, surrounded by modern neighbours, the 19th century wood-panelled brick house with sash windows (first sash windows in six weeks of US travel!) that had belonged to the National Advancement of Colored People.

To add to the hostel’s homeliness, a shared (modern, paint-white) kitchen.

A good place for gossip: a TV journalist showed us a picture on his phone of David Cameron’s visit that day to the White House.

While cooking my staple stand-by, brown rice, I found a unopened packet of interesting Indian spices and spinach from Trader Joe’s. A previous guest had labelled it: “to share”.

I debated with myself: was it selfish or unselfish to use it?

A young Danish guest urged me to. He said I reminded him of his mother, also a brown rice ex-hippy. (And like my children would have done, encouraging me to think of myself).

Enter the hostel manager, Kevin, who turned out to be a would-be blogger for the hostel (and I about to give a social media workshop when I got back to the UK) and into real food.

So we shared the brown rice and spicy spinach, and Kevin invented a crunchy-soft topping of avocado and peanut butter. Like most home concoctions, its looks belie its taste.

Since arriving in the US, six weeks before, I had been watching reality TV show, Top Chef DC, marvelling how the US,  as mired as the UK in obesity and junk food, is as obsessed as the UK with food on TV.

Now I was in the foodie capital, eating the kind of spontaneous, messy, healthy, tasty concoction I would eat at home.

And here’s a picture of my bowl of porridge the next morning – real-life reality food, and my take on Top Chef DC.

Thank you, Capital View.