31 May, 2005

380,000 hidden homeless

When you come up with a figure like three hundred and eighty thousand hidden homeless. People ask how you came by these figures and what does hidden homeless mean? Well. Firstly being homeless just doesn't mean sleeping on the streets. The independent newspaper got it half right when it told of homeless men and women sleeping on buses and friends sofas. It also includes people sleeping in hotels, hostels squats, condemned building basically anywhere. I myself have been out and about on the streets of London giving out a cigarette here and there and asking how they became homeless. I have heard some appalling stories Like Marianne a twenty six year old from Sunderland who came to London with her boyfriend to get away from the abuse she suffered at home. Because she wouldn't prostitute herself for her boyfriend. She was left on her own to fend for herself that was two years ago. Now she is addicted to heroin and sleeps rough most nights. She admits she has to sleep with men to feed her habit. I gave her the name of a drug agency that she could go and talk to as she says she wants to get herself clean. I have also spoken to a man named Keith. Who lives in a squat quite near where I live now. He says he got into drugs by accident. He was in a car accident some years ago and was given pain killers from his doctor and has been on them ever since. These are just a few of the stories I have heard personally. I know there are stories that are far worse than these. Many years ago a film called Cathy Come Home alerted people to the fact that there were people that had become homeless and where entering the world of prostitution, drugs and other things. Do we really need to go down that road again? When we see it everyday of the week in our high streets.
The government has no official figures on homelessness. That is why crisis are asking for a census and I do agree with independent that if Tesco can count how many water melons they sell. We can count the actual number of homeless and hidden homeless.
When it comes to homelessness. Many people are skeptical because what they see are the beggars in the street. Most are untidy, drunk or high or so they think. No one ever blames lack of a decent nights sleep. It could also cause someone stagger or to look as if they were high. Imagine having to walk everywhere and go two or three nights without sleep. God, I know what that feels like. To go without one nights is hard enough and its not pleasant. If you put yourself in their place you can only imagine half of what a homeless person has to go through and I am talking from experience. I think I am the proof that with help people can change and I think by giving people the means to change is empowering them to do it for themselves.

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