Family Magazine

Are You Guilty Of Judging The Homeless?

By Therealsupermum @TheRealSupermum

ID 1009739 Are You Guilty Of Judging The Homeless?

I sit here in my cosy living room with the central heating on full and still I hear myself moaning ” Its too cold, I’m freezing”.

I watch the snow fall from the window and as the flakes sparkle under the street lamp my mind wanders off to Bondi, Australia.  The homeless or tramps as they were refereed too remind me that homelessness is still very much real and an issue and the saddened feeling that the homeless people here in the UK, are very much feeling the bitter reality of life.

I can’t help but think ” At least the Australia’s homeless are not facing minus temperatures as I think of those closer to home. I admit I have never done anything to help, support or even acknowledge a homeless person in the UK, I am thankful that where I live, this is not something I witness.

But I will be looking to see if there are any local resources that I could become involved in.

While in Australia I did on a daily basis. I stayed in Bondi for 3 weeks and of course Bondi Beach draws in thousands of tourists, a hot spot for the beggars and the homeless.

“Move on tramp” was a common thing to hear

I was sat waiting for my brother to finish work, it was only the 3rd day into my holiday and as I sat there in my designer sunglasses and the sun cream glistened on my legs, a lady sat down beside me on the wall.

I was smoking a rather overpriced cigarette, a packet of 20 cost me almost £10. I never did like the cheaper brands there. The lady smiled at me, I smiled back.

“Beautiful day” I said

She nodded

I noticed she was still looking at me, a few seconds of awkward silence followed. She had no shoes upon her feet and her hair was matted. She stood out from the crowd of tourists, she just looked odd.

“Got a spare smoke?” she quietly asked me in the beautiful Australian accent

I turned to her, she had lowered her head to the ground.

Asking a complete stranger for a few dollars or in this case a cigarette was degrading to her, yet vital for her survival. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Knowing she must have been gasping for a nicotine fix, I handed her the one I had just lit up as I reached into my bag and pulled out the packet I had. I gave these too her and I saw the shock ,yet appreciation across her face. I was giving her all my cigarettes. There were only maybe 5 or 6 left but this was like being given gold to this lady.

I smiled, she smiled. No words were spoken. She even handed me back the original cigarette she had sucked a few puffs from, then she realised what she had done.

Why would someone like me want to put my mouth against something sucked by someone like her. I saw the look of guilt in her eyes as I reached for my cigarette back and smoked the rest.

“I couldn’t afford the medical bills” she told me ” I have mental health problems and life got bad”.

I saw my brother appear and I stood to go, she reached out and touched my bare arm. I placed my hand on top of hers and smiled.

Before I walked away I turned to her, she was a rather large black lady with the most beautiful brown eyes I have ever seen.

” I have bipolar” I told her. “So I guess we are both a little screwed right?”

She laughed and nodded. I could still hear her laughter as I walked across the road and headed off in the direction of the shake bar.

This lady, I wish I had actually asked her name, became someone I actually looked forward to seeing each day. It become a joke to my mom and aunt as each morning when we went for breakfast, this friend with no name would always be sat in the spot each morning.

“Morning Mate” she would smile as soon as she set eyes on me.

“Morning Mate” I would reply in the worst Australian accent you can imagine,  while slyly handing her a few cigarettes behind my back as I passed her, so nobody could see.

She had never asked me for another cigarette from that first day, I just gave her them, my way of saying, I know and I understand.

I handed her a purse full of Australian coins on the day I was leaving. I saw a tear roll down her face, yet she just nodded at me. We didn’t need words. It was only the equivalent of £20 in our money, but I knew she could for once in a long time walk into the shop she sat outside and buy herself a proper packet of cigarettes.

“I bet she spent it on drink or drugs” was the reply from someone I know when I was telling them about this lady, who  touched my heart.

And yes maybe that is what she did spend the money on but isn’t that what a stereotypical homeless tramp does? Do all homeless people take drugs and drink alcohol?

I don’t know this ladies story, I could only guess the cost of medical insurance crippled her and she was unable to pay for mental health treatment. I am lucky, here in the UK I am given free medication and free professional support for my own mental illness. What if it wasn’t free and I could not afford to pay for it?

I would become ill, no doubt a danger to myself and perhaps my marriage would brake down. My husband would fight me for custody and be able to prove due to my mental illness that’s not being treated would be the better parent. I could loose my family and home overnight. With nowhere to go, could I end up on the streets? Begging a stranger for a few quid or a cigarette? It could happen.

I sit here tonight and I think of that lady. I hope shes safe and I hope there are other people around her to watch out for her. I hope for every person who ignores her, steps away from her or tells her to move on, there is another who will smile at her.

Almost 50,000 households across England were accepted as homeless as repossession rates and unemployment rise The Guardian reported.

The number of people officially classed as homeless in England has jumped by 14% – the biggest increase for nine years – as what charities have described as a “perfect storm” of rising repossession rates and unemployment drives thousands more families into temporary accommodation.

The statistics show households that local authorities have recognised are unintentionally homeless and have accepted a duty to house. Increasingly, people are being put up in bed and breakfast accommodation, with the use of this arrangement up 37% on the previous year after years of decline.

Councils are not encouraged to place families in B&Bs, and there is a six-week time limit.

Shelter says the increased use is a sign of the shortage of suitable accommodation as the figures also show a decrease in the use of accommodation leased by the private sector to local authorities, by 6% from 27,730 to 26,080 households, so B&B will often be the only option.

There are many reasons why people become homeless. These include loss of employment, divorce, long-term illness. Others include domestic violence, substance abuse, institutional discharge and many other factors that make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to pay rent or make mortgage payments. Factors that contribute to homelessness include lack of affordable housing, lack of preventative services to keep people from losing their housing, and inadequate treatment programs for those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. Can you imagine working two jobs and still not being able to afford housing? Mercer Alliance

The next time you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t avoid eye contact with them, instead offer them something that will cost you nothing, yet means so much, a simple smile.

Not every homeless person is a drunk or a junkie and even if they are, do they too still not deserve a smile? Instead of passing judgement, have a long hard think to what made them go down that path.

Homeless Link Says - In 2012, we launched Take a Step - a national campaign aimed both at professionals within and outside the homelessness sector, and at members of the public, to raise awareness of rough sleeping and to show the small steps that anyone can take to help end rough sleeping in England.

Why not take a few minutes while you sip your hot coffee to read and learn more.

“Morning Mate, keep smiling, wherever you are, thank you for inspiring me”

 Are You Guilty Of Judging The Homeless?

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