Working with people who are homeless has really changed my attitude. Before I started working with a charity which helps homeless people, I thought that somehow they probably ‘deserved’ to be homeless, because they’d got themselves into drink or drugs, or debt they’d brought on themselves. Every time I saw someone slightly staggering about on a street corner, I imagined their own actions had brought them to this state. It was their own fault. So why should I care?
Now I’ve learned better. I’ve discovered that people end up here for all sorts of reasons. One issue is that this seaside town is at the end of the line. People leave their homes, jump on a train and just come down here thinking it will be nice and they’ll find a job and somewhere to live and all their problems will go away. People run away to London for the same reason. Then they find reality is rather different, but by then it’s too late.
Some of the people I’ve talked to have just slid, without meaning to, into a place where they have no roof. Losing a job is usually the first step, so they can’t pay rent or their homes were re-possessed, then they had to move from a B&B or a bedsit, as money ran out and suddenly they’re on the street. The people I talk to are often very aware of being looked at with pity or hostility and feel embarrassed and ashamed. They’re not some underground group, but part of all of us. They all have stories, stories which affect us. Now I’m ashamed that I ever thought of the people I work with as deserving to be in the state they are in. I understand that thing about loving thy neighbour a lot better.
- How much do you know about the people without homes in your local area?
- What charities or agencies help homeless people where you live? Could you talk to someone like Tanya and find out more about what’s happening in your community?
- How do you suppose homeless people see us?