Streets Fest: Hundreds access free services at homeless festival in Finsbury Park
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of homeless people attended a one-stop-shop festival in Finsbury Park yesterday to access free services provided by more than 50 organisations.
Streets Fest was hosted by grassroots group Streets Kitchen – which offers daily outreach, food and solidarity to the homeless community and until recently was based in Seven Sisters Road.
The event, supported by Islington and Haringey councils, had all the trappings of a typical festival – sizzling burgers and a pumping sound system – but it also offered dentistry, foot treatment, showers, vet services and more.
Jon Glackin, of Streets Kitchen, told the Gazette: “It was a really successful event and it shows what partnership work can achieve.
“It was the first time an event like this has happened in London – I want to make it more than an annual thing and do more all across the city.
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Jon added: “Everyone really enjoyed it and accessed the services which is the most important thing. And there is a dire need for it because people are dying on the streets far too young.”
Jade Statt co-founded StreetVet in 2017 with her colleague Sam Joseph and the voluntary not-for-profit organisation now offers regular outreach sessions across nine cities.
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Jade, a vet, said: “I always used to walk past and wanted to do something and this is the best way to do it professionally and without risk.
“But these dogs are all really well looked after and our job is often just giving people peace of mind.”
Jade’s colleague, Anna Minoli, explained many homeless pet owners have limited access to services because they are too worried about leaving their dog somewhere in order to go to an appointment.
Anna, who once fostered a dog for three moths while a client was unwell, said: “It’s about building trust and this work helps us to break down barriers and create relationships with people.
“It’ amazing what they [the organisers] have done today and I hope it becomes a regular thing.”
Matt Turtle founded the Museum of Homelessness, a charity, which aims to research and record homeless history as while promoting dialogue between communities.
Matt was running a “dynamic and diverse” banner making workshop, where people could create their own square and leave a mark on the museum’s canvas.
His friend, John, who declined to give his surname, made a square with “homelessness is just a label” printed across it.
He told the Gazette: “In history there has been a lot of repetition of housing shortages and solutions that have been tried but we are now coming back on ourselves.”
John, who has a history of sleeping rough but now classifies himself as hidden homeless, added: “It took me quite a big effort to do this but I came here today to support what’s going on.
“Many homeless people are more interested in survival than campaigning but my biggest belief is we need to include the community in the discussion, otherwise you just have people with no lived experience advocating.”
He said the biggest problem facing homeless people was loneliness and a lack of representation.
Paul Atherton, who says he isn’t street homeless because he mostly sleeps at Heathrow Airport, said: “Part of the problem is we have a homeless industry now, so we’re looking at it separately rather than as a housing issue.
“There is a war going on against welfare, which should be there as a safety net for people.”
When asked what he thought of the event, Paul added: “I sat in a dirty corridor feeling like the dregs of society waiting for a dentist who had kindly volunteered their time to help me – that feeling is why I struggle to do these events.”
But another festival-goer, who gave his name as Captain Rizz, said he lives as a nomad through choice. He said: “I think it’s an absolutely brilliant endeavour that is so important and will keep people going.”