22 December, 2006

A picture of homelessness

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.

1 comment:

tone dod said...

hi jamie,
Well put,education is certainly a factor,in helping people away from Homelessness,while engaging in activities to broaden the mind,or for sheer enjoyment of the arts,and i for one would like to see more funding, based around these,In my case it was being able to see the photos i had taken on a digital camera,on a p.c.. that my interest grew using I.T and took me away from my inward looking thoughts ie: homelessness,and as i found out later,Homelessness is not only being street/hidden homeless, but more importantly, a state of mind as well..
regards..tone dod