10 May, 2006
Last night the homeless panel (a group of homeless and exhomeless people from all over the country) met with some MPs from the Labour party. Not that many came as we all know MPs are very busy. Anyway we talked to the ones that came and I left the meeting with the impression that although they listened and talked to us they still did not understand what it was we were trying to say. This has left me wondering if we are going about this the right way. I believe the homeless panel is a good thing but the question is, is there a way of making people and members of government properly understand us and what we are trying to achieve. The answer I think is not that easy as nobody who has not been homeless truly understands what its like to be homeless and disadvantaged to the degree that homeless people are. I have heard people say why should the homeless get more than any ordinary person. The answer I always use is they don’t because at this moment in time they are so disadvantaged that they are mainly ignored by government and the public in general. It seems that only at Christmas there is this big thing about homelessness but homelessness isn’t just a Christmas thing it all years round. In many cases some homeless people have been homeless for years and have lost so much of themselves that they don’t see way back to normal everyday things. Last night I have to admit I was disappointed, not at the turn out of MPs but at the feeling I got that although the MPs who came were listening they really were not. I think it’s the usual thing of homeless charities and people coming along and saying look homeless people are just people and the public and the government have all heard this before. What we need and we seem to have got is a chance to meet all MPs from all parties in a one meeting to tell them this is what it is like to be homeless and this is the way we are treated. Then it’s up to us to say this is what is needed. Like I mentioned that there are some so disadvantaged people that can’t read or write or that some need to learn new skills but they need to go to college to do so but because they are on benefit they will lose their benefit. The sixteen hours a week rule needs to be changed not only for the homeless but those on benefits. Take me for instance I couldn’t read or write. I would have studied more if I had been allowed to without losing any of my benefit. I studied in my own time for hours which proved to be the right thing for me but not that many are as lucky as me or were more motivated. Attitudes and perceptions on homelessness need to be changed. The myth that every homeless person is a drug addict or an alcoholic or is mentally dysfunctional is wrong. Some are just the opposite and its only circumstance that has lead them to become homeless in the first place. The fact that when someone becomes homeless and inevitably ends up in a spiralling circle of no hope and no future and is doomed to fail is quite common. What would I personally like to see this government do? Put homelessness properly on its agenda and admit that there is a real problem and really focus on how to prevent it and what can we do now for those that do become homeless and what will get them back on track permanently. There are no quick fixes to this problem. There are an estimated 400,000 people that are what is now being called hidden homeless. these are people that are living on the streets and in temporary accomodation and the problem is becoming worse as the government continue to focus on putting people in hostels. Getting them off the streets is only part of the answer and is only a sticking plaster at best. the problem is where do you put them after. If they can't cope with everyday life. Teaching people the basic things they need to if they get their own places is a must because once you have been homeless you learn how to survive on the streets, but learning how to survive in normal life is much much harder. Every person who becomes homeless has a different reason for becoming homeless but the simple truth is it can happen to anyone.