By Phoebe Altman, Second Year, English and Classics
When we went into the first lockdown, the Government pledged £3.2m of emergency funds to local authorities to house people who were sleeping on the streets or who were at high risk of sleeping rough during the pandemic.
The ‘Everyone In’ scheme enabled 90% of rough sleepers to be housed during the height of lockdown, a feat which would have been impossible to imagine just weeks earlier. It has been estimated that these measures may have prevented 21,092 infections, 266 deaths and 1,164 hospital admissions of homeless people.
As we approached the end of the strictest lockdown measures in late June, however, it was announced that the government had quietly pulled the plug on the funding they were providing to protect homeless people from the virus, consequentially forcing our country’s most vulnerable back on the streets.
Bristol has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the UK and with students now returning to the city and the 236 rough sleepers, originally housed in Bristol during lockdown, on the streets again the risk of the pandemic is becoming greater by the day.
As the months begin to turn both colder and with many soup kitchens remaining shut due to social distancing measures, it is difficult to be optimistic about the lives of homeless people in a post-corona world.
There is, however, a tiny token of hope within the despair.
And that is The Billy Chip.
The Billy Chip is a token that can be purchased for a £2 donation via a retail outlet which supplies take away beverages like tea & coffee. The purchaser receives The Billy Chip which can be given to any homeless person instead of money. The homeless person can redeem The Billy Chip in any participating outlet displaying The Billy Chip sign for a hot or cold take away drink.
The idea came from a 20-year-old ambulance driver in Bristol called (yes, you guessed it) Billy who tragically died before he could see his vision come to life. His family continued to produce this chip in his legacy and they can now be found throughout Bristol and have recently been introduced to various surrounding towns and cities. Every time you purchase a Billy Chip, money goes towards the B A Hope Foundation so that the charity can continue with their incredible work.
This scheme allows the general public to help homeless people with the knowledge and reassurance that their money will not be spent on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes which is unfortunately the common perception. It provides the homeless person with the independence to choose what they would like to buy whilst creating an opportunity for a genuine human connection, helping to break the stigma surrounding homelessness.
Their vision for the future is to develop the scheme so that the chips can be used for food and a night in a safe warm place so, the more donations they receive, the higher the chance that this can be a possibility for the homeless population of Bristol.
On their website you can find all the participating outlets which include Boston Tea Party, Better Food, My Burrito, Rob & Ruby’s and many more so make sure to check where the nearest place is to you or alternatively look out for their logo in shop windows around the city.
Featured Image: Billy Chip
For more information on the Billy Chip, visit the website here.