I’m no expert, but I feel I can safely say no-one chooses to be homeless…
…unless it is the best of some really terrible options.
No-one wakes up and thinks “gosh, I wish I could live on the street, in all weathers, with nowhere dry and warm to go, nowhere to sleep and no guarantee of food”
The only reason anyone would elect to be homeless is if the ‘home’ option is worse. For most of us, it is impossible to conjure up a situation where that might be the case. We should thank our lucky stars.
But for some, living in the only house they have access to, means living with sexual, mental, physical abuse or even the constant threat to their life.
I repeat, no-one chooses to be homeless. It’s a symptom of a broken society. One that doesn’t sufficiently care for those who are affected by severe misfortune or mental health.
If capitalism were a successful model for a society as a whole, we would not be experiencing increasing numbers of homeless and increases in all the stresses that might be one stop away from it.
In a society that measures its successes purely by growth and profits, instead of input, care and the wellbeing of the whole, we will never see a solution.
And it will only get worse for those poor individuals as I witnessed over the last four months. I have been travelling around for work and visiting cities. There are a lot of people on the streets.
So many people, too many people.
And with the ever-increasing cashless society, those who live for the odd pennies and pounds are hit yet again, because the masses striding past and trying to blinker themselves to these sights, no longer carry cash, and no longer have spare change, even if they might be inclined to drop it in an old take-out cup at the feet of one of these people trying to survive one day at a time.
With the government constantly cutting services, there is a continual decline in mental health support, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, beds in women’s and men’s shelter. The onus is on charity. Whilst it’s great that we as a whole are generous, this crisis cannot be resolved through charity alone.
Whatever each of us does as an individual, it is never going to be enough. I can understand how we get to the point of walking past and (pretending to not see), ignore these individuals. I think it’s a result of hopelessness and overwhelm.
I don’t know what the answer is, but the system we have at the moment is not it. It fails so many.
I’m no saint by any means, but I have sobbed each time I’ve been in a city. I’ve done my little bit, but it leaves me feeling more helpless and emptier. I can’t give to everyone, and I can’t give enough to anyone. I can make sure I go out with a pocketful of change. I can buy an extra takeout and give it to the person sat outside the Five Guys or wherever. I can offer to buy a coffee or tea; I can have a little conversation and ask them what they would like. Can you imagine, not only not knowing when you might eat again but never having any choice in when, what or the quality of it? Every single meal, every single day. Day after day, after day.
I understand why many people just shut it out. I even understand why many people get angry at those suffering; they don’t like feeling bad. And seeing such despair and sadness and being helpless in resolving it, can leave us feeling terrible.
I hope that’s the reason.
Because if the reason is to blame them for their own situation or to be angry because it spoils their view or their perceived safety, then they are severely lacking in empathy and compassion.
I don’t know the answer. There’s no easy fix. But can we all spare a moment to think about rather than ignore it. Can we each just make a pact to speak to at least one homeless person we pass in a day? Can we perhaps try to carry a few pound coins around so we can offer something? Or agree to buy one person a coffee or give one person a blanket or coat?
These are tiny thing to do.
But it has to start by us noticing and empathising and seeing these people as fellow human beings.
In a different life, with different opportunities and families, (who we are born to, where we live, how are educated, our health, our inherent wealth), those people could be us. We are the lucky ones. Remember that. Nobody choses that life.
I was just looking through my old posts for something I could cross link to this post and found this. I don’t often venture out of the countryside but in 2016 I was in Cardiff and afterwards I wrote this. How quickly one forgets. Helpless with the homeless
Here’s one of many charities out there trying to help The Trussell Trust – Stop UK Hunger