Social Impact / Better Bristol

Telling the story of homelessness in Bristol

By hannah cornford, Thursday Oct 31, 2019

The first ever Cardboard Camp took place in Bristol throughout October 2019, culminating in a performance at Bristol Old Vic on Friday, October 25.

The project is the first of its kind in the UK, with other camps taking place in Manchester and Newcastle. The project will continue in the South West for another two years, led by charity Cardboard Citizens, with Plymouth being the next city to host a camp in partnership with the Theatre Royal.

The performance at Bristol Old Vic saw 10 people with lived experience of homelessness take to the stage to share their stories with the hope of changing policy in the city.

As a partner on the project we teamed up with members of our Better Bristol initiative, Studio Giggle, to hear some of their stories and help the project reach a wider audience.

Following the performance audience members were invited to come up on stage to try and change the outcome of the story, and give their ideas for how policy could be changed.

A group discussion was led by Councillor Paul Smith, Bristol’s Councillor for Homes and Housing, Val Thompson, leader of Spring of Hope, the only women’s emergency shelter in the South West and Paul Blake, a campaigner for Right to Shelter.


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Audience members voted on the ideas they thought were best, and three key policy changes were documented on the night:

  1. Start a user-led information service that could travel around the city to reach people who need housing advice where they are.
  2. A survey of empty properties in Bristol that have liveable conditions and can be used for temporary housing.
  3. Create a charter for private landlords that will hold them to account and force them to accept people on housing benefits.

The council and local services now have 90 days to review the suggestions and come back with their plans for implementing them where possible.

A working group of homelessness charities and services has been set up in Bristol to continue the legacy of the project and Bristol24/7 is continuing to work with them to ensure the community’s voices are heard as part of our Better Bristol initiative.

Read more: National homelessness project kicks off in Bristol

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