Join our appeal this Christmas
It is always tempting to turn a blind eye to the visible evidence of homelessness on our streets.
After all, the causes are invariably complex and there is rarely a quick fix, a magic solution.
Mental health issues and alcohol and / or drug dependency may also form part of the scenario which has led to someone – someone's son or daughter – living on the streets.
If we even stop to acknowledge there is a problem, we may quickly conclude there's nothing we, as individuals, can do to help.
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In truth, the scale of the problem is hidden from most of us. 'Sofa surfing' is on the increase, with those without a permanent address moving from place to place. That is evidenced by the increase in the number of people coming into contact with St Petrock's homeless charity.
The need to address the issue of homelessness in Exeter was brought into sharp focus by the tragic death of 21-year-old Michelle Conroy, who was sleeping rough in a tent off Western Way when she was killed by a falling tree.
That Michelle died just a stone's throw from Exeter's vibrant, economically thriving city centre just hours after Christmas shoppers had been filling the tills highlights the gulf between those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to go on a festive spending spree and those for whom a roof over their head would be a luxury.
The truth is that we can do something to help. We may not be able to directly tackle the problems in someone's life which drives them onto the streets, but we can help those who are qualified to help the homeless, by making a donation to charity.
That's why we are asking Echo readers to dig deep for our Help the Homeless Christmas appeal, in aid of St Petrock's.
The money raised will help pay for support services for those most in need, with the aim of helping them to change their lives and ultimately find a way back into mainstream society.
In households across the city and the region, huge amounts of money will be spent ensuring Christmas is as fun as it can be.
So when you're spending, just spare a thought for those who won't be able to enjoy the same kind of Christmas, and consider making even a small donation to our appeal.
As we said last week, Michelle's death shames us all. The fact that we have, in a thriving, modern city in a developed nation, people living on our streets shames us all. Together we have a chance to help make a difference.