The invisible people of Aberdeen: One group’s mission to help
A closer look at JustLove’s mission for social justice
by Daniel Hesp
Matt Collamer on Unsplash
With homelessness in Aberdeen still prominent, it brings hope to learn that organisations such as JustLove are in place to help tackle the issue head on. Through treating each case separately and recognising the individuality of the person behind the problem, JustLove are working to destigmatize the label placed upon homeless people within Aberdeen and place a focus on those here as a result of human trafficking. The Gaudie spoke to a representative of JustLove to find out more about the organisation and what you can do to help further.
What is JustLove?
JustLove is an independent organisation that is all about engaging people in social injustice issues in a Christian context – that is a large part of who we are. Right now, we are focusing on the issue of human trafficking. We partner with local anti-human trafficking organisations such as the International Justice Mission and City Hearts to spread awareness of human trafficking in modern-day. City Hearts is based in the UK and has opened in the last two years. In that time they have been telling us about the safe house initiatives that have been set up around Aberdeen and other cities to help those that have been trafficked to the UK.
The organisation is about connecting people to charities that can help – I feel that there is a lack of engagement between young people and social injustice issues.
That’s what we’re looking into. We’ll have a ‘JustLunch’ every two weeks where we invite representatives from different social justice organisations in to talk about their ideas.
How can students help?
I think a lot of students feel really daunted by the idea of social justice, but the smallest things can make a difference, so you don’t have to make huge gestures of support and every little bit helps. In support of City Hearts’ anti-slavery campaign, I have given up coffee.
It’s about humanising people, spreading the word that there are people out there less fortunate than you. In this time of big headlines and scaremongering, people tend to forget the issues that are the closest to home. There are human beings on your doorstep that need help.
My vision of the next two years is to encourage students to reach out to people on the street. I have been trying to do that as much as possible, a few days ago I spent some time talking to a guy busking, who told me that a lot of people won’t be willing to talk about their story for fear of endangering themselves.
Why are we so unaware of the issue?
I think people are ashamed to talk about it. There is a lot of baggage surrounding the term ‘homeless’ but a lot of the time the issue is not what is assumed, it’s very different. Circumstances can dramatically change very quickly, especially nowadays, I think, and there are many different reasons for being on the streets – no story is the same.
Whether we like it or not, we all depend on something. People who are not wealthy are dependent on their own day to day circumstances, but wealth is a goal which is never achievable, people are never satisfied with what they have – until they don’t have it.
What are the goals of JustLove?
Our goals for this year have just been to engage people with human trafficking as an issue. I think that we have momentum, we organised a ‘Walk for Freedom’ last year in protest, and because of that, we are focussed on raising awareness about human trafficking.
Giving a home to the homeless is very important to us, and in that sense, I think it’s our duty as a community to discuss ways in which we can help.
There is also a lack of education around the issue, and JustLove provides a precedent for others to do the same. We’re very new as an organisation but it’s pretty crazy how much momentum we have gained already – I think there is massive support for social justice, we just need an organised effort. Working together to help one another.
An idea for raising awareness on a larger scale might be something called ‘The Big Sleep Out’ that other universities have been a part of. A group of people show support by sleeping outside a public building or area to gain coverage and attention. Maybe we could do it outside Elphinstone Hall?