Learning to help the homeless

Posted on 08.05.2019

Pupils at Dixons Manningham Primary have been working with local charity, Bradford Nightstop to learn about homelessness, it's causes and the experiences of homeless people both locally and nationally. The link came about after teachers picked up on pupils asking questions about the homeless they see on the streets of Bradford.

Our school motto is “we do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” Because of this, a weekly lesson called “Heart, Mind, Soul & Health” is set aside to discuss local, national and international issues.

Over the last term, the lessons have focused on homelessness; why people are homeless, how they feel and how the wider public react to them. We linked up with Chris Watson from Bradford Nightstop who delivered sessions across school on the causes of homelessness and how his charity tries to support 16-25 year olds at risk of finding themselves on the streets. Chris explained how the major cause of homelessness was due to relationship breakdowns and not choice (as some children thought). It helped the them to understand the real people behind the homeless label and that they are just ordinary people.

The children debated the issue and empathised with how lonely they might feel; they created works of art, poetry and a rap to demonstrate what it must be like to live on the street and feel there is no one to turn to for help. This work is now on display in the school as well as links on the website to rap performances.

As a consequence of the work with Bradford Nightstop, the pupils wanted to know what they could do to help and decided that in the future instead of looking the other way they’d give a smile and make eye contact. They also chose to make Bradford Nightstop the focus of the school's Summer Charity including a community fun day in July when Bradford Nightstop will be present to raise awareness and support with fundraising.

Bradford Nightstop support homeless young people by providing them with overnight stays at vetted volunteer houses, money raised helps to provide food and essential wellbeing kits.

Principal, Terri Leighton said:

"I'm really proud of how engaged the children were in the sessions. It helped to challenge the perceptions and stereotypes that surround homeless people. It is important for children to understand the world around them, what the issues are within the news and how we all play a part in ensuring the world is a better place."
"A recurring theme from the lessons was that the children were wary and frightened of the homeless and as such ignored them completely when they saw them. Many of the children picked up on how this must make these vulnerable young adults feel; unseen, uncared for, unloved. They all agreed that no-one should feel like this!"

Chris Watson, Project Worker at Bradford Nightstop said:

“It has been a real pleasure working with the children, they were fantastic. I was impressed by the questions they asked and the effort they had put into the sessions. It is important to break down stereotypes surrounding homelessness and the unfortunate reality that it could happen to anyone"

For more information about Bradford Nightstop, visit their website.

Read the Telegraph & Argus media coverage of this story.