I’m a police officer, and I see the impact of homelessness and poverty on my job day in, day out. My heart breaks for those in need, but doing my job as an individual and as a fellow human being has always come first.
I haven’t always seen the help I would like, but I’ve always found ways to provide it. I’ve served as a volunteer with Ark for more than a decade and was proud to support the agency’s opening of the A&E primary care unit for homeless people. But my day-to-day practice has taken a significant hit due to cuts in funding, staff numbers and service levels. Over the past year, I have found it harder to meet service users’ needs because of workforce shortages and care needs of the one person I do have.
I was born with a disability and have epilepsy. When I worked in child protection, I helped vulnerable and abandoned children. When I was a teenager, my mother sought help from someone from Ark — a people and youth homelessness charity. This person listened to my problems and they began to work with me to ensure I could be a productive member of society. I was always able to make plans for my future, set goals and make plans to improve myself.
I attend A&E, but the only care offered to homeless people who were refused a bed elsewhere is taking a minute to stay in a “D” service. The waiting list is growing longer and longer. As a police officer, I have compassion for those in need. My life experience gives me the resilience and skills to assist with homelessness and support vulnerable people. But the additional hours I have to spend each day caring for vulnerable people has made it difficult for me to make my community policing commitments.
My local authorities tell me that lack of staff and financial constraints mean this specialist care isn’t available in my area, and they fear it might be less available in the future. Recent data from NHS Digital shows that fewer people are receiving specialist support – this is a massive concern.
Although I have always attended the A&E unit of my local A&E unit, it’s hard for me to continue if the emergency services aren’t there to support me.
I have a caring job, but it is hard to sleep at night. Once I had an epileptic fit and woke up on a sofa. I hope nothing else happens to me because it would bring me so much pain. I am also paranoid that something bad is going to happen, so I stay away from my spot and meet other homeless people in the street.
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I believe we need a whole system of care for everyone at some point. But rather than support new projects, we need to invest in staff and keep some of those who currently do the work at the frontline. I feel let down and lose confidence that all those in need will receive the care they need.
I know many police officers and other first responders working in this sector. We aren’t paid for our work and the loss of funding leaves us frustrated and broken.
My plea to all politicians, charities and community workers is to put your hands in your pockets and help us continue to provide care for those in need. There is no shame in doing what you can for those in need, and we will take care of them anyway.
Need information on how to volunteer? Visit Ark’s recruitment page for officers to become full-time volunteers.
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