New rights for victims of crime in Europe - Homeless persons project
According to recent reports, almost 80% of homeless people have been victims of crime (16).
The Victim Support service based in Glasgow discovered that out of an estimated 6,500 homeless people in Glasgow (17), very few had accessed their service. Although a number of organisations in this area offered assistance to this client group, none dealt specifically with the problems affecting homeless victims of crime.
In consultation with other service providers, specific problems were identified as:
- lack of information about the criminal justice system
- difficulties with applications for Criminal Injuries Compensation
- lack of social and emotional support.
It was also recognised that homeless victims of crime often have other problems that are further aggravated by their victimisation, such as alcohol or drug dependency, mental health problems, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
In April 2001 the Victim Support Glasgow City Centre Homelessness Project was established. The project operates from two outreach bases at lodging houses for the homeless and aims to provide a support and information service to victims of crime who are socially excluded. Ninety percent of the people coming through to the project are self-referrals and the most common categories of crime are assault, rape and harassment.
Specialist training has been provided to volunteers who work in pairs at the outreach sites on a rota basis. Volunteers often need to spend several sessions with individuals because of the complex nature of some of the crimes and the follow-up work that is required.
It has taken some time for this project to gain the trust of the client group but the success to date has encouraged the service to seek further funding to extend the facility to other outreach bases.