Thoughts on homelessness

I went to my Christmas do last night, I was a bit excited as this year the company said they were not going to pay for the alcohol consumption so I thought it would be interesting.

Well, of course, I had forgotten that wouldn’t stop people buying their own drinks. Still it was fun for a while, the food was yummy, a buffet of bitesize interesting things – my favourite was little parcels filled with goat cheese and caramilised onions – yummy! And since no-one else seemed to like those, I stuffed my face with them. Well it is Christmas after all 😉

I spent most of the evening with my young workmate friend who I have a bond with, and before I decided to leave, we spoke at length with our new manager, trying to give him the support he needed to try and relax in his new job, for he landed in a right mess of a situation – that new manager was my mentor when I worked in that place before I left for Canada, I have a lot of affection for him, and kinda feel sorry for him too as he is really struggling at the moment realising how bad things are in our department. I told him he needs to concentrate on observing people and getting to know everyone and learning how “things worked” and not worry about the mess we are in at the moment, things will get better when we are fully staffed again and then he can start making the changes he wants. He seemed reassured by this, he felt he was letting us down by not implementing positive changes straight away.

I had another interesting encounter smoking a cigarette on the roof top too. A group of young estate agents out on their Christmas do with their more mature lady boss. The boys were so young bless them and utterly charming. I got very taken by one of the lads, and we got chatting about his travelling to Thailand and how he had discovered meditation, and he would spend hours in the sea, floating and meditating. He was such a nice, charming, yet with a strong character young man, we could have spoken for hours, but we both had to go back to our respective Christmas do. We might meet again in the future, as the lady boss gave me their number and said they would find me a new lodger no problem. I had explained to her what I was looking for – a broken man to give shelter to whilst he sorts his head and life out  – and she said January/February was the best time to find such people as a lot of people split up after the holidays. I thought that was pretty sad.

After I had had my fair share of talking shop and as I was observing people getting more and more drunk, I decided it was time to go home so I made a quiet exit, only my workmate knew I was leaving, and walked to the car park.

As I left the pub and started to walk around the City, I was feeling pretty good not to be part of what was happening around me, the town was in full swing of revellers, people dressed to the nines, looking very smart but not behaving such, thanks to alcohol.

In my reveries, I heard the sound of metal on metal and looked where it was coming from and saw a homeless person sat in a doorway. That brought me back down to reality. I didn’t have any change and felt a bit bad to walk on. Just a few steps away though was another homeless person, this one had two dogs with him and so I decided to stop and give him a note instead. I figured I had spent no money drinking that evening, I could spare a note.

Of course, I stopped a while to have a chat with him and pet the dogs, two lovely staffies who lapped up the petting for a while before resting back at their owner’s side. The chap talked to me about his dogs at length and how one had been with him from a puppy – he was now 5 – and the other he had rescued from some woman who had left her get infected with flees so much that she had a terrible coat and it had got pretty raw near her butt. She had also been used for breeding. He explained how that woman now wanted the dog back and had threatened to send her boyfriend over to sort him out, but he was not worried, he said he’d do what he could to keep the dog by his side where she belonged.

As we were chatting, I was conscious of people around us, the doorway he had chosen for the night was right by a cash machine and the queue didn’t stop of people drawing their money to get their booze while out, and opposite people were queuing to get into a pub. It sure wasn’t a quiet doorway, however, it was probably good to feel part of the world still and watch it unfold.

During our chats, it was easy to forget the world out there, yet, I was always aware of people around us, it was very noisy, and as I went on my way, I wondered how those people felt to see this man and his dogs there whilst they had no care in the world apart from getting drunk – how much money were they going to be spending doing that that night, right in front of someone whose every penny mattered. I hope a few of them would think of that when drawing their money out and maybe share a bit of their beer money with that chap.

It is a crazy world for sure.

As I pushed on, and got slightly lost trying to find the car park where my car was, I got thinking about homelessness a bit.

As I mentioned before in my entry about balance, the word came during my last psychosis so obviously it was something I needed to think about and I realised a couple of weeks ago that I guess it was my ultimate fear in the world, to find myself homeless.

However, and this came after I did a bucket collection to help the relief for the Philippines, I thought that should I ever become homeless, somehow, I’d find a way to survive and stay safe, and that with the right disposition, people, strangers would pull through for me.

Hmm, yes, with the right disposition, a happy face and a big smile. Except I bet this is impossible to do when you find yourself homeless and having lost everything. 

We got an email at work yesterday on the subject as it happens. One part of our company looks after homeless people in London, particularly the youth.

I have been keeping an eye on the communication we get from them, usually fund raising. And I always give them special service when they contact us with IT problems, because I admire what they do, and don’t want IT to get in the way of their good work.

The one we got this week, which was fundraising within the company asking people to wear their best (or worst) Christmas jumper for the day, talked about the state people are when they get to them. How they are sleep deprived and starving and how that affect their mental health. And how difficult it is to give them hope again when they are in that state.

Having suffered trauma and sleep deprivation myself, I knew very well what they were talking about and it made me realise how tough that was for those homeless kids, who “wouldn’t be helping themselves”.

In fact this is something I have heard often recently, how people don’t help themselves, as a justification for not helping them.

And I experienced it first hand myself last night as I saw this homeless guy – his face was stern and unfriendly, I stopped anyway because of his dogs. And because they looked in great shape too. That told me a lot about him. I was right, he was a decent human being – he didn’t smile once during our friendly chat though. Well, would you be smiling in his shoes? I think not.

Homelessness is probably what matters the most to me about what is wrong with this world. Especially as it is the easiest issue to sort out. How many empty bedrooms are there in the civilized world?

When I was thinking of moving back to the UK, I had thought of giving my address to homeless people to use for their correspondence. I was wondering how they could even get a job if they didn’t have an address for post to go to. I was heavily dissuaded by someone, I can’t remember who, who put fear into me, saying it wouldn’t be safe and I would have a hoard of homeless people knocking on my door. Well, maybe he was right I thought, and so I gave up on the idea.

Since being back in the UK, I have been fortunate enough to have been able to help the cause somewhat.

With my lodger for starters who was sort of homeless when I got back in touch with him when I was in hospital and was able to give him a place to stay while he sorted his life and head out, and one of my special friends too, the one I went to dinner at last Wednesday.

That was actually quite a story, as she and her 11 year old daugher were about to find themselves homeless and I had offered to give her a temporary place to stay – she couldn’t really stay there long term for various reasons – and I found out by talking to the Council that if I gave her somewhere to stay, it would be the worst thing I could ever do, for they wouldn’t bother finding a place for her anymore – and this I heard directly from the council lady I spoke to. And so I had to take the decision not to help her, to help her – it was tough on me, but my friend was wonderful about it all, and just really grateful I cared enough to bother. This story had a happy ending, she stayed a couple of nights at mine whilst she sorted her stuff out and then found temporary accommodation before being re-homed.

That woman is absolutely amazing, I am so glad she is in my life. Despite everything she has gone through, she is an absolutely ray of sunshine, always greets me with a big smile and open arms when we meet up. I love seeing her. We got very close before she left the town I live in, I would often pop over hers after work and be invited over for dinner and I will admit I miss that now she lives miles away, I am just glad I still get to see her on occasions, and appreciate our meet up all the more now. She makes me feel so alive when I see her, the living proof that one can still be a good, positive person despite adversity, and finding herself homeless was the very tip of the adversity she had come across in life, bless her. Still, she has a strong and beautiful soul, and that is her saving grace.

The problem with homelessness is people really do prefer to turn a blind eye to the problem, although some will look at them with pity. But you know, it can happen to any of us, one wrong throw of the dice, one bad decision too many, one hardship too many, and you can be there.

I could have easily found myself there two years ago if I didn’t have my house to come home to when I had to leave Canada, in fact even then. If I didn’t get a job within two months of arriving, I would have had to sell my house and then what? The idea of moving back to either of my parents in France filled me with dread. I had never wanted to move back to France for the past 23 years I have lived in the UK and I didn’t like it to be my last option – in fact before meeting my husband ten years ago, I often said I would rather live under a bridge than move back there. France is not my home anymore.

And you know, I have realised recently, no-one lasts for ever, and even the friends you may think you have may not pull through for you if you are in dire straights. It is best to learn to stand alone in this world, then you discover a strength you never knew you had. I know I am these days. And decisions I make are no longer based on fear, they are based on my own personal survival needs. And I am no longer scared of being homeless, I feel these days that I can deal with anything life throws at me. It might be tough, I might lose the plot for a while, but it seems I have a fighting spirit inside of me and enough hope that it will see me through the other side.

Next year I want to get involved in the homelessness cause somehow. The only thing I can really give them is my time…and a bit of my heart. I thought maybe I could take myself out to the big towns/cities around me when all the animals come out at night to party and just walk around and chat to homeless people.

Sometimes, a friendly chat is all that one needs to feel connected to the world.