Homelessness is a topic we are all exposed to, yet one that is easily pushed aside due to the stigma and awkwardness that surrounds it. The question stands, if the idea of homelessness makes us uncomfortable, why are we not doing more as a collective to change the narrative?
Under One Sky, founded in 2012, is a UK based, volunteer-led initiative with an objective to both shift opinions on and end homelessness in the UK. Beginning in London, Under One Sky has continued to grow over the past decade with teams established in Brighton also, as well as recently forming a partnership with Durham University earlier this year. Unlike most organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a huge growth for the charity in size and ambition. The charity evolved from being an annual ‘Winter Pop-Up’ campaign to become a 24/7-run organization helping up to 600 people a day on their Skywalks during the pandemic, distributing food, drink and essential items to people on the street, and taking time to listen, talk to and connect with those who needed it most.
Under One Sky highlights the importance of human connection with the people so often forgotten about, promoting the necessity for compassion, respect and equal treatment for all. The charity is continuing to erase the stigma around homelessness with the help of public support.
Under One Sky first began informally at Durham University in January 2022, with a handful of students going on their own skywalks to make a difference within the local community, and later became an official volunteering organization within the University this September. So far, they are off to a great start! With an increasing number of volunteers from the student body, Under One Sky organizes 2 walks a week, distributing food, hot drinks and other essentials to their friends on the street.
However, the aim of these walks is not just to hand out materialistic items, it is to spend time befriending and connecting with those who are so often overlooked. The positive impact a quick conversation or catch-up can have been astounding. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be a conversation, it just has to be someone ready to listen. These interactions not only help tackle the ignorance surrounding homelessness, but also help to create a safer and more nurturing environment for those on the street.
In so many cases, our homeless friends are dehumanised and outcast through the use of tainted language, which is why, alongside the skywalks, Under One Sky aims to expose the common stereotypes, ignorance and general misconceptions associated with the root causes and human reality of homelessness. However, this cannot be done without addressing the public and raising these issues. Under One Sky Durham are currently working with Pal TV, recording their own podcasts, and creating innovative and engaging social media content to help address these issues and get rid of the judgement, so keep an eye-out for updates on our social media pages.
This year, DUCFS is working with Under One Sky to help replace the judgement and negativity felt towards the subject of homelessness with compassionate action. In January, DUCFS are holding a Clothes Drive where all students will be able to donate any warm clothes they have spare, whether its winter coats, trousers, long-sleeve tops or sleeping bags. The items donated will be used to support Under One Sky Durham and will help keep our homeless friends warmer and safer this winter. We all know how bitter the Durham can be, so we need to make sure our friends on the street have as much are as warm and safe as possible.
The most effective way to begin changing the narrative of homelessness is through public support and awareness. We would love you to meet first-hand the kind-hearted, lovely people living on the streets of Durham, so, if you would like to join Under One Sky Durham on a walk, please message our social media pages and keep an eye out for the charity across the University’s social media platforms.