12 April, 2006

Does anything really change?

Yesterday instead of going into the crisis offices I thought it would make a change to spend a day with some homeless people I know that sleep out on the streets of London. It was just my luck that it was raining. Not only did I get soaked to the skin but I have caught a slight cold but it was worth it as it's been a few years since I was homeless myself and boy how things have changed. The struggle to just survive on the streets is still hard though. My first stop was at what is called the American church in London's west end were homeless People can get a hot drink and sandwiches. Then it was off to another day center to have a shower and get a change of clothes if you where lucky. That took from 11'clock till 2 30. Then there was nothing to do but sit and talk to other homeless people because to put it bluntly nobody has the time or the inclination to stop and talk to people that look a bit rough especially on a rainy day.
The day center we went to has computers. You can only use them if you want to look for work or on a course and you can't email anyone or look at your emails. When I asked why? The answer I was given was, there are two many wanting to use the computers everyday and it's too expensive just to let anyone use them as some abuse the system. So we think if you are on a course or looking for work this is the way forward for us. As per usual it's always the cost of things that stop most things happening.
It used to be that the day centers were there to help people off the streets or keep people in touch with normality wherever possible and to help them with food and a hot drink but today I think it's about helping people to cope with what's happening to them at this precise moment in time. The focus seems to be on the here and now. What happens in the future is a secondary result of what happens now. The thing is today homeless people are not seen as normal people by a large section of the public and who can blame them because some of these homeless people have serious problems. Such as drug and alcohol abuse, some have severe mental issues. The fact that some people see them as the problem is harmful in its self. We don't see them as someone's sons or daughters but the fact is they are all someone's sons and daughters and they are not the problem. They are the results of a problematic society that doesn't see an end or a way to change things for the good. So the problem is largely ignored or put on the back burner but everything changes eventually and I wonder will poverty and homelessness really become a thing off the past or will the struggle to recognize that we do have a hidden class in society continue?
Changing peoples perception of homelessness is always difficult at the best of times. It's took a film called Cathy come home to show Britain what was really going on in society and still goes on today but it is so hidden these days that we don't see it out in the open. We only hear about it on the news.
If you look at things logically, some things have changed. Not so many rough sleepers but we now have hidden homeless. Which you don't see. That's what governments want us to see. They want to be able to say, look we have cleared the streets of rough sleepers and they are not homeless anymore. It's just like a bad magic trick. You see them. Then they are gone but they are not really. They are all still there hidden away and that's just it. They are all still there but in hostels up and down this country, on friends floors, in bed and breakfasts. There seems to be no end in sight because there's no other place for them to go. Houses are not being built. Councils are passing people from one to another and even making it harder for people to sleep in city centers where it's reasonably safe for them. Once in a hostel it's a long wait and there's no guarantees. There is a chance sooner or later you will get a place but wont keep it because you don't know how to because life on the street although hard was different because you didn't have to worry about bills, shopping or cooking for yourself, keeping the place clean or even letting the right kind of people visit. Then there's the government who concentrate more and more on owning your own home. Which for most people is just a dream. For homeless people it's something of a fantasy, a pipe dream. Which will never come true unless there's a miracle

1 comment:

alyceclover said...

I always knew how to "bring home the bacon & fry it up in the pan" and have only the right kind of people visit. (actually the last is not true, that's what did me in, letting the wrong kind of person visit...). Even if the US government helped me get a home (room with shower/bath), I won't be able to get a job, due to age and health. The 2 things that might have helped prevent my homeless (besides my stupidity)would have been affordable housing, affordable health/dental care. Or higher wages.

The trend in the USA is Internet job searches, must have an email. I could bend the library rule to check emails, that I needed to access them for my (fruitless) job search.