When was the last time you gave thanks for your bed? For homeless people, having a safe place to rest their head isn’t something to take for granted. That’s why a team of volunteers created the Rough Sleeper Bus to allow people a place to catch their Zs. 

All human beings need restorative sleep. However, when you lack shelter, it’s difficult to fall into the restful state your body needs to heal. Hopefully, more cities will implement innovative measures such as the Rough Sleeper Bus to help homeless people get the rest they need to stay healthy. 

What Is the Rough Sleeper Bus?

The Colchester’s Rough Sleeper Group raised money to convert a double-decker bus into overnight lodging for the city’s homeless people. To date, they’ve had 60 individuals sleep on the vehicle.

The organization partnered with the Flying Trade Group to run the Claudius Gateway Café — half of the funds raised from sales went to the charitable bus project. The group also registered with the UK Charity Commission and is due to submit its financial report. The charity expects to continue, although it may change its strategy to help more people more effectively. 

Health Effects of Lack of Sleep 

Insomnia is a common problem. About 62% of adults say they struggle to fall asleep at least a few times per week. While it sounds like a personal problem, sleeplessness creates a public health crisis. When drivers fall asleep at the wheel, for example, they cause crashes that kill or leave people permanently disabled. 

When you’re homeless, finding a safe place to sleep proves problematic. People who rely on food stamps and public libraries need to stay in the city to access resources — and this creates problems finding suitable shelter. Police and business owners harass those who set up tents in alleyways and under overpasses. Those fortunate enough to own cars have to move them regularly or risk being towed — and losing the only shelter they possess. The only option for escaping harassment is sleeping on BLM land, which is often too remote and the conditions too harsh. 

Besides the risk of accidents, chronic sleeplessness poses additional health risks. Fully 90% of people with insomnia have another underlying condition. 

  • Increased risk of heart disease: People who don’t get enough sleep run higher risks of cardiovascular disease. They have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as experiencing a heart attack and heart failure. Those who decreased their sleep from seven to five hours per night doubled their risk of cardiovascular disease. This risk is a severe problem for the homeless, who often sleep in short bursts. 
  • Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes: Skimping on sleep can make you crave sweet and fattening foods more often. This impulse gets compounded by the way the homeless often struggle to find food at all. They can’t afford to be picky. 
  • Increased risk of depression: Lack of adequate sleep can lead to major depressive disorder. The chronic stress of poverty means homeless people run a much higher risk of developing this mental health disorder. Depression kills motivation, making it impossible to muster the energy to improve your life. 
  • Decreased focus and concentration: Homeless people need to maintain a hypervigilant state. They continually fear for their safety, and they have to watch their backs to avoid falling victim to crime. Unfortunately, raising yourself out of poverty requires tremendous focus. Because of the lack of sleep combined with ongoing vigilance, homeless people often don’t have the concentration ability necessary to improve their station.

What Communities Can Do to Help Homeless People

Projects like the Sleeping Rough Bus can do a lot to help the homeless, but to effectively end the problem, we need a societal change in consciousness. Municipalities need to stop criminalizing homelessness and instead do more to give people the shelter they need. Nobody chooses to become destitute — because society created the homelessness crisis, it has a moral obligation to fix it. 

Cities need to create spaces where the less fortunate can erect homes. They should police these areas to stop crimes that harm others, like theft and assault. Jobs programs can help, but some homeless individuals are unable to work due to physical or mental health disorders. Governments need to expand programs to help the disabled lead otherwise productive lives. They need to make it easier to apply for and receive aid — and provide an adequate monthly sum to afford decent housing. 

The World Needs More Sleeper Buses

Society needs more places for homeless people to get a good night’s rest. Hopefully, more projects like the Sleeping Rough Bus will help them get the rest they need.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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