Thursday, 4 December 2014

Spilling my guts

Confession time:

You know that thing when you hear someone describe their personal experiences and you know they're doing it to prove a much bigger point and you're all like; that's interesting but I'd really need to see some statistics on that if I'm going to believe it's a serious widespread issue and not just a personal problem that you are suffering from/ making up?

I'm putting that on suspension.

I work with homeless people and the situation they're in makes me furious, I've got stats about how young homeless people die, how ill they are, what kinds of backgrounds they're from, but here is what it's actually like in my experience of meeting and sharing in small parts of the lives of hundreds of homeless people:

People are always asking me, when they talk to me about what I do; "to what extent do they bring on themselves though? Are they homeless because of stuff that has happened to them that they couldn't have done anything about or is it just, you know, just a lifestyle choice?

Most homeless people I've spoken to, once I really sit down and have a chat with them tell me that when they were children they were abused, usually sexually, often physically too. I'm not making that up, I've heard them say it through tears, through drunken confessions, through schizophrenic rantings, not just lots of them, most of them.

Almost all the homeless people I've known were born into families that were poor and struggling. You always get one or two that everyone knows came from a nice family or had it good when they were young but they're a tiny minority. They are born and die in poverty mostly.  

Lots of them can't read or write. This often contributed to why they were homeless in the first place, they couldn't understand the letters they got sent telling them they were getting evicted unless they do ...

Lot's of them have never worked. Before you judge that step back for a second, the other day I was trying to help a young guy who was getting frustrated because I wasn't getting very far in coming up with solutions for him. I was starting to get a bit annoyed too, defaulting back to prejudices and wanting to tell him to get on and do something for himself for once. In a 5 minute speech he made, stood up before walking out he told me that his mum didn't want him, that he was beaten up by his step dad, that he was put into care and passed from family to institution to family, that he has nothing to offer the world; no skills, no education, he doesn't even know how to speak right and dress right and the world has nothing to offer him either. Now what? If this is where I'm supposed to tell him to get himself together and sort it out I refuse! How can I say that when I've always had it so good?

You know, for a lot of people there is no resolution. We're conditioned by those bullshit films about how people pull themselves out of the gutter and go on and succeed to think that sooner or later they'll finally get it, they'll see the error of their ways and make all the changes they need to make, maybe spurred on by some kind of inspirational situation or after hitting rock bottom and knowing it was either change or die. Then there is the montage scene and then it's all better! Actually it's too late for lots of people.  Lots of the homeless people I've known over the years are dead now; two people I've known were murdered, more than I can count decided that it wasn't worth being alive any more, and killed themselves, one guy fell in a river and drowned, some of them died of liver disease, some just disappeared and haven't been seen again. 

I can't help imagine them as children after that happens, I don't know why but I always do it. Even then they mostly had it bad but I bet they all had at least one good day, I bet at least once they laughed and we're happy and forgot a bit about the pain at home. I hate the fact that they died in total indignity and far too early and now there's nothing anyone can do about it now.

And here's the worst part, I haven't even got an answer.  I'm not going to round this post off with a rant about how we all need to do this thing to fix it, or the government need to do or not do this thing to fix It, its a horrible, horrible tragedy and I literally don't know what to do about it. 

In my job we help people and sometimes it works but I don't have a grand story to explain what's really wrong here and what big thing needs to happen to make it all better! In the last year we helped about 100 people find a place to live, I'm thankful for every one, but it's getting worse, we've seen far more people this year than last and this is one small town in a wealthy part of England.  I left school wanting to change the world not having a clue about how hard it is just to impact one life for the better. It's incredibly daunting. 

If I've got anything at all to leave you with it's that if we want to make the world better it's going to take all of us. We don't need heroes but we need at least as much dedication as a hero has, but from everyone.