In 2019, a report from Shelter estimated that around 280,000 people in Britain were homeless[1], while in Bristol, it was reported that homeless people were dying at more than double the national rate.[2]

One man who saw first-hand the issue of homelessness on Bristol’s streets was Jasper Thompson, who moved to Bristol at age of eight from Jamaica.

In 2017, he began handing out hot food and sleeping bags to the city’s homeless with his wife Tania. After he put out an appeal on Facebook, support flooded in from the local community and Jasper found himself with a 38ft Caravan and 30ft shipping container alongside some land to place them on, as a hub for his personal outreach work.

Jasper, who felt that the problem of homelessness could be tackled with a housing-first solution, was inspired to turn the shipping container into a self-contained micro flat. Help Bristol's Homeless was born.

In just three years, Jasper has rapidly expanded the charity, raising more than £50,000 to relocate its headquarters to a new space not far from Bristol's city centre, with over 20 shipping containers converted into micro flats, a shower block, a laundry, a kitchen and dining room and an office.

The site is also home to a converted double-decker bus, with 12 beds for single-stay nights, which has been used more than 4,300 times. It operates a zero-tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol, and Jasper encourages residents to help on new projects, where they learn new skills and build their confidence.

Jasper and his team also help residents with other aspects of supported living, to ensure that residents, who stay on average for four months, feel empowered and self-assured to make the next step in their journey away from homelessness.

Jasper said: "Whenever I asked any people sleeping on the street what they wanted, it wasn't money or food. It was a 'roof over their heads'. All they wanted was to feel safe when they sleep, or to have access to a shower and a toilet – things we all take for granted.

"Everyone has the power to make a real impact in their community. All it takes is a drive to do some good – something I think we all share – and some great friends. I am so proud of what we’ve achieved together, and all the people we’ve helped. Thank you to the University for this huge honour and recognition of our work."

Jasper was nominated for the honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Dr Penny Walters, a lecturer in Consumer Behaviour in the School of Management.

Penny said: "Homelessness is incredibly complex, with many different causes. Jasper’s method, to offer people a 'hand up' rather than just a 'hand out', is a fresh approach and one that has impacted so many lives in Bristol.

"Jasper is a shining example of community spirit, and I am thrilled to have nominated him for an honorary degree in recognition of his incredible impact in this city."

[1] 18 December 2019, Shelter.

[2] 4 October 2019, Bristol Post.

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