-this link takes you to the information about the knitathon,  so if you are in Britain, you can find your nearest event or a downloadable pack to set up your own event. If you are in Nottingham, please come along to the event I’ve organised with Eleanor at Knit Nottingham and encouragement from Cherise, who promises to come to the Knit and Natter 😉

Knit Nottingham Big Issue Knitathon on facebook

Why does this matter to me? Well, they are organising it a way I like: inviting people to help on what level they can, with a big push for publicity with an attempt on the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest handknitted blanket in the world; the big blanket will be easy to convert into single blankets for those sleeping rough or in their first homes afterwards; the knit and natter will be a way for people to be sociable as they discuss social justice and why so many people are homeless or using foodbanks in order to keep paying the rent or the heating because zero hour contracts are so unfair, benefit systems are so overwhelmed and stacked against those in urgent need, and any sponsorship money will be put towards the support foundation that helps the homeless with all the many things that can have gone wrong and need turning round.

Lots of people who are homeless are also hopeless, things have gone a way they never saw coming, and while many have mental health issues, particularly trauma from abuse or being in the Army, or drug and alcohol problems, others have simply been overwhelmed by circumstances. I helped a woman leave her violent partner, who then started threatening me and stalking me. The partner was also a woman, which meant that even going to the Women’s Centre didn’t help, in fact as she used the Lesbian Centre a lot it was a particularly hard place to go, anxiety-wise. She lived two doors away and was very good friends with my house-share. Sigh…eventually things got so bad, I went to the Housing ‘Choice’ Centre as Homeless Support was then called, to the derision of all. The Emergency Homeless team rehoused me at 4.15pm on a Friday, and I moved at 9am the next morning, from the place I had been flatsitting for 2 months to be away from the abusive neighbour. At 11am the woman I was flatsitting for came back from Latin America. I was that close to having nowhere to go, because I have estranged myself from my abusive family, and because lots of people I knew were very uncomfortable at the lesbian domestic violence implications (this was the late 90s, when lesbian violence was an extremely dirty secret beginning to finally be aired, very cautiously) or helping someone being stalked. I actually didn’t know that many people either, I’d moved to Nottingham as an agoraphobic and it is very hard to build a social circle when you can barely go out. I wasn’t eligible to go to a women’s refuge because it wasn’t my partner being violent to me, and there was no where else.

I got through it, and I started the art course a year later, and life really had got a load better by the time I met Andy (my dead husband) in 2001, and very few people would imagine meeting me nowadays that I was once 45 minutes away from homelessness in the sense of no key to a door of a place I could be safe, away from a very angry abuser who wanted to punish me for helping her partner leave. But I was, and I fell between so many cracks in the system, I felt totally isolated, totally helpless. And I am an articulate middle class white cis woman, with a very strong hidden disability (agoraphobia/PTSD ) but still, relatively able to negotiate the benefits system and talk politely to council workers etc., I was emergency homeless, with no support and it seemed like I would have nowhere to go after applying to over 20 housing associations and the local council of course…it was very, very frightening.

And because of the bedroom tax, there are disabled and vulnerable people who are going to be made homeless because there is simply NO HOUSING STOCK FOR MOST OF THE PEOPLE NEEDING BEDSITS, STUDIOS AND 1 BEDROOM FLATS. Because, oh yes, Thatcher made the councils sell it all off.

I do not want anyone to be homeless, but if they are, I want them to have nonjudgmental support. No one chooses to be homeless except maybe wandering gurus/ sages/visionaries… and however they got there, there’s a lot more to the story than most people think. And I’m sorry, but it could probably happen to most people if enough bad things happened. And because the shelters and refuges have so little (if any) funding coming in, there are people who cannot leave people who are violent and abusive to them or their children, because there is nowhere else to go. Britain is in breach of the United Nations Charter of Human Rights by not providing places of safe refuge, and the government is morally bankrupt by making so many more people homeless or vulnerable to abuse…we live in desperate times. With not enough support for the desperate…

So, please choose to help how you can:

knit some 6” squares

sew squares together

sponsor a knitter

ask your local yarn shop/knit and natter etc if you can do something on Sat 16th November

send a cheque, made payable to The Big Issue Foundation to 1-5 Wandsworth Rd, London, SW8 2LN

or donate to your local refuge, consider fostering a pet for someone in a refuge, so they will have a safe companion when they make their new life, donate to a food bank or the pets projects

It will be very appreciated, and do more than you can imagine.