Imagine being homeless. Yes, I know, I’ve asked you this before. Imagine, this time, being homeless in winter
Last week I was in London. I’ve not been to London for decades. Its changed. A lot!
What hasn’t changed is the number of rough sleepers and people begging on the streets.
What hasn’t changed is my helpless hopeless embarrassment and shame of it. Of not knowing what to say. Of walking past and saying nothing. Of not having change to give to each one? Of walking into cafes or shops and coming out with bags and goodies whilst someone is outside in the cold and wet.
It was even colder than usual in the big city. Below freezing, maybe slightly above freezing. I had on thick tights, trousers, socks, fir lined waterproof boots, 2 tops, a jumper, a big thick winter coat, a scarf, gloves and a warm hat. I could seek refuge in any shop or cafe.
And I needed to. I was cold even though I was wrapped up warm and had a full belly.
There were many people sat in the freezing cold in far less clothes, without food in their bellies, without a mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine in their hands.
I cried. A lot. I gave a little. Not enough. I felt guilty and sad when I bought things whilst passing people who had nowhere to sleep. I felt decadent spontaneously buying a couple of theatre tickets when that money could have fed a homeless person for a month. I gave a little more. Again, not enough.
When we got home a week later, the boiler had gone out. It was six degrees Celsius indoors. We lit the log burner, filled a load of hot water bottles, grabbed some blankets and relit the boiler. We made hot drinks and snuggled the cat. There was a comfy warm bed upstairs waiting for us. I cried again. Those people would be curling up in their not enough clothes, in their not thick enough sleeping bags or cardboard boxes, in drafty doorways and park benches.
I was safe and warm in my bricks and mortar. They would most likely get woken and moved on by police or taunted by drunken revellers.
I don’t like these thoughts, but I must not lose them. Next year I must find something I can do that will be more (still not enough), than I’ve done this year. It will never be enough. It is not possible as individuals for it to ever be enough. It has to be governmental, societal. It needs to be a measure of the success of our nation. However, whilst it remains as it is, I will find a way to do a little bit more.
Who’s with me? I’ll have an idea ready by next week. Perhaps you can share yours.
Nobody deserves to be homeless, especially in the winter.
See also: Nobody chooses to be homeless