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As part of today’s World Homeless Day we speak to CJ*, one of the CRZERO2020 volunteers involved in ending street homelessness in Croydon about his experiences volunteering in the campaign as part of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am currently involved in various volunteering roles and recently began volunteering as a Barista in a Social Enterprise Café run by the Spitalfields Trust. I also volunteer supporting  migrants in Woolwich, at Crisis at Christmas and as part of CRZERO 2020 European End Street Homelessness Campaign in Croydon. Volunteering has allowed me to really regain my confidence and become a better, happier person. This has been really important,  as I am in recovery and have had poor physical and mental health.

Why did you decide to get involved in CRZERO 2020?

A colleague from Crisis at Christmas who volunteered for the Westminster Campaign told me about CRZERO 2020. Having been homeless myself, this was something I really wanted to get involved in.

How have you been involved so far?

I’ve supported both of Croydon’s Connections Week so far. I really enjoyed talking to the people we interviewed on the street. From my own personal experiences, I felt a great affinity with what they were going through. I am also part of Croydon’s Housing Solutions Group where I share my own experiences of what it is like to be homeless and the barriers I faced getting housing and support because of my alcoholism and addiction. It felt good to be included, to be part of and to contribute to the team.

Why do you think this campaign is different to other homelessness campaigns?

This campaign feels more hands on and inclusive.  I like the way we engage with the community and get to the real issues causing homelessness.

What do you think needs to change to end homelessness for good?

Homeless people need to feel that they’re not being marginalised or ‘swept under the carpet’. For me this can only come from the top, with investment. I became homeless as a result of not being able to cope with my life because of addiction. If I didn’t know the support available I wouldn’t have been able to ask for it. For me it would be good for homeless people to feel reassured, and know that there is support for them.

How would you describe the campaign in 5 words?

Critical, Lovely, Enabling, Action, Nice

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do something about homelessness in their community?

Look for local charities that support local homeless people. These could be churches, Crisis, hostels, outreach, and find out how you can get involved.

Find out more about the Croydon campaign here.

The European End Street Homelessness Campaign began in 2015 and now has 10 active cities working across Europe to end street homelessness. Find out more here.

*Names have been changed.

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