Homelessness – Things I learnt

Facebook Post 2nd January 2018

 

To anyone wanting to help those less fortunate than us, the homeless, the rough sleepers and the vulnerable…..

In September of last year (2017 for those who, like me are still confused by this year change!) I stopped and chatted to a homeless gent outside Marks and Spencer in Leicester. Since then I have become totally immersed in helping out wherever I can and I know a lot of people are at the same early stages so here is a quick run down of what I have learnt….I hope it helps if you are also wanting to help…..

* Sometimes the most important thing to the people on the streets is to be seen. So many people just walk past that it can add to feelings of no self worth. A few kind words can make someone’s day.

* Not everyone wants help….for a multitude of reasons…pride, history of mistrust, mental health issues. Don’t take it to heart. It isn’t personal and there will always be another who will appreciate the offer.

*Carry a spare emergency pack wherever I go….in case I see anyone who needs support. Mine currently consists of hat, gloves and socks. Although am adding snacks, lip balm, sanitary products (for ladies obviously) and emergency foil blankets but even just a couple of these items can make a difference.

* Don’t just turn up to the hot food kitchen with a whole load of donations…..find out if there is a co-ordinator first…..sometimes the volunteers are inundated with donations and have nowhere to store it and they don’t want to appear ungrateful but you may need to take it away again until it is needed.

* If you do take donations down to a hot food donation kitchen be prepared to stay to help hand it out…..the volunteers’ main priority is to get the food out whilst it is still hot to as many people as possible.

* Don’t feel a failure as you walk away from having stopped for a homeless person…..this was my biggest issue…not being able to “do more”. The fact you have stopped, chatted, maybe bought a sandwich or hot drink means you have done so much more than a large number of people that day. We can’t just magic people off the streets but we can show a bit of compassion and humanity.

* Try and dispel the myth that “all homeless are druggies and drunks” or lazy. There are often complex issues as to why a person is on the streets and addiction can often occur because they are on the street. It is not always the reason they are there in the first place. Some facets of the main stream media will perpetrate the myth as it demonises the rough sleepers thus turning people against them. Talk to one or two, find out for yourself and don’t believe all you are force fed by hate mongers with their own agendas.

* Be compassionate. The fact you want to help already shows you are and sometimes that is the base for helping someone get off the streets permanently.

* Don’t judge. You don’t know their story or reasons and, if you do have a bad experience with someone don’t share it on social media as this perpetrates the myth that “they are all like it”! Obviously warn if someone is abusive or threatening but do it the right way.

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