28 December, 2006
27 December, 2006
One day last week I was in the west end of London and we saw a homeless man who we thought was asleep on the pavement. It transpired that he had a heart attack but that wasn't what got to me it was the amount of people that just stepped over him. I can remember one MP or lord somebody sometime ago commenting that he had to step over homeless people when he came out of the opera and that there was no reason for it.
Have we really become that immune to people in trouble? Have we become a society that would rather tend to a sick dog than a sick person? I have had my troubles over the years and like so many i not given a second glance. It was only when people treated me with compassion one Christmas that changed my life. I now hope like so many people that have given up their time at Christmas to help others in need that we never forget that showing a little compassion is what makes us a part of a better society, a caring society but lets not just show it at Christmas. Homelessness is not only at Christmas for some it a life time of nothing.
25 December, 2006
At Christmas things only become more meaningless as memories are drowned by booze and drugs and the future well, what future? There isn't one, not one you can see anyway. It's funny but Christmas is a time of hope during the year there isn't much of that about.
All the volunteers at the crisis open Christmas give that just by standing around guarding doors and just talking to people that during the year would normally be ignored. Showing people that they are normal gives the first glimpses of hope and who knows what follows? maybe a merry Christmas.
22 December, 2006
Forty Christmas’s have been and gone since homelessness was brought to the fore and we are still talking homelessness and what it does to people’s lives. The myth that these are the people that want to live this way was dispelled years ago. I have been there are lived the life not by choice but out of sheer necessity. Having been there I know what homeless people are going through. When you first arrive on the street there is a certain apprehension but no clue as to what will happen there is also a mild fear but there is that hope that everything will turn out fine and nothing phases you until it gets cold and rains and you’re soaked to the skin or you have no money in your pocket and are really struggling to survive. This is what I call the desperate days. When you think about stealing and you start off buy shoplifting bars of chocolate just to ease the hunger you feel then you find out that there is a soup van that gives out free tea and sandwiches. So you become part of the homeless crowd waiting for it every night. It’s then you notice people look at you in a certain disapproving way. Then one day you get fed up of having nothing. You pluck up the courage to sit down and beg because that’s all that’s left for you to do. You sit there looking down at the floor not wanting to look into people’s eyes because you’re ashamed but after a while and days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months, months into years. You get used to it. It becomes away of life. You start to mix with other homeless people who get by drinking or using drugs and in the blink of an eye you find yourself doing exactly the same. By the time you realise you have a habit it seems its too late and there is nothing left but the daily chore of drink and drugs that’s how I felt everyday of the week but something changed. I went to my first crisis open Christmas where people treated me as if I was a person not someone to be looked down upon.
I have heard about all these great schemes charities and the government have come up with this year but how do you get someone to take that first step. Crisis has part of the answer at their open Christmas centres and that is normality, being treated like a real person makes a real difference to most homeless people and by engaging them in conversation or just listening is a starting point. Giving people that first glimmer of hope, gives homeless people their first insight into what could be. It’s not about forcing people to conform as some have had terrible lives but it not plain sailing. Some have major drink and drug problems and to add to those ill health. Getting these sorted is a high priority but that is the start, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. There are all sorts of problems and reasons for people becoming homeless and once you start the process of engagement you can start solving the problem the next step I think is re-education. It is just another part of the solution as most people lose their confidence and skills once on the streets and quite a high number of homeless people cannot do the simple things like reading and writing I could not but can now as you can see.
Although there are things in place for sixteen to twenty five year old. In most cases for them it’s a problem of access but if you are over twenty-five lives just gets tougher. There simply is nothing unless you look far and wide and then its just luck in finding something. Then there is what is called the revolving door people repeatedly becoming homeless. There are several reasons I think they are loneliness, old habits and not being able to cope. Life on the streets may seem simple but let me assure you it’s not.
18 December, 2006
This Christmas where will we be?
Will we be in the heart of a family or friend?
Still with disasters and fences to mend.
Will we be holding the loves of our lives?
Sons, daughters, husbands or maybe our wives.
Will we be reminiscing old times?
Or maybe reviewing old crimes
Yet together whatever.
This Christmas what will we see
Will it be beauty and love in the eyes of a child?
As she opens her toy.
Will it be laughter and smiles as a father plays with his boy.
Will it be the sound of people?
This Christmas will we be true to our hearts
Simple and plain
No demons to tame
Will be wishing for a world that has peace
Where love has a freedom and does not have a leash
Or will it be just twenty-four hours of laughter and smiles
Families and friends.
Coming together to shine
Will this Christmas be that Christmas of hope
A Christmas of change
Of coming together
15 December, 2006
This looks like a scene from a Charles Dickens play but it's not. It's another homeless man sleeping rough. This is what the government say they are trying to eradicated but the question I am asking is how come we have heard quite a lot about homelessness and how it's being tackled, since we found out we are hosting the Olympics or am I just being cynical?
13 December, 2006
Yet somehow it keeps on daily turning.
One day can seem like a lifetime
Yet only a few hours have drifted by
So so many times those silent words come to mind
Oh I wish time would just up and die.
Yet the world tomorrow keeps on turning
And maybe keeps on burning.
But good days appear on many more horizons
Where dreams of canvas splendour
And wishes do come true.
It's just life and always a part of you.
So when that inner rage comes out to play
On a hectic nothing day.
Just sit a little while
Let unused muscles form a smile.
Because tomorrow has yet to show its face
And living, reminds you of the human race
Apart of which you are.
I still go out at night taking photos of homeless people, talking to them which I think is more important. Someone who was walking around with me said they are the dregs of society. Obviously they didn't understand the problem and to me it was an awful statement to make as they didn't know the people they were talking about. I said what if the person sleeping over there was a brother of yours. Would you still be saying the same thing? All of us are guilty at times for forgetting they are someone's sons, sisters, brothers ect: but it all comes down to people perceptions of homelessness. We here the argument that most homeless people are addicted to some form of narcotic or alcohol but is this really true? This Christmas over 1500 people are expected to attend the Crisis Open Christmas not all are on the streets quite afew are, the hidden homeless and need someone to talk to. They also may need to see a doctor or dentist. Making people feel normal and there's more to life than blank days. This is the new direction of crisis the homeless charity they believe in empowering people to make their own choices. Whether your on the streets or not.
06 December, 2006
Housing needs to be seriously looked at.
Drug and alcohol dependency needs to be properly addressed because how can you expect someone to go into a rehab get clean and then re-enter society via the streets again. Its inevitable they will return to their former lives.
Long-term solutions need to be found and funding needs to continue once given. All these issue are relevant to homelessness but while we still try to fix all with just the one solution, then we will always be talking about these issues. Every case of homelessness is different and when we start treating them as such then we might actually see some improvement. You can listen to me rant some more on BBC radio4 at 1230 tomorrow when I interview the hosing minister Yvette cooper.