Every year over the Chanukah/Christmas period, my family try to do something to show some care, love and appreciation for those who help us and those who are in need of some love. This year my daughter and her friend made up little bags of chocolate and put a little note in to each one, we then drove around and gave them to police officers etc.
We also handed some to some people who are homeless, though my ever so helpful (hmmmm) husband did point out that “they would prefer money” I felt that being shown some care would be more important than money, and the reason I know this is because I have been there.
I can not claim to have been “hardcore” homeless, but there was a time I slept in park… so creepy, a broken car, so cold, and so on. It is a time I would never want to go back to.
It is an undisputable fact that homelessness and mental health issues go hand in hand, mental health issues can make it much harder to cope with housing problems, and housing problems can make a persons mental health worse.
Being unable to cope with bills, relationships, substance or alcohol abuse and day-to-day life can all lead to homelessness, and whilst on the street getting the help needed to combat the mental health issues can become impossible.
Switch on your Tv, radio or read a newspaper over the last few weeks and we will be bombarded with adverts reminding us of the plight of the homeless, seeing images of children on the street, can bring us to tears, for a second…until the advert finishes, shelter will talk about how a few pounds could give someone a bed, warm clothing, a bath on Christmas day, other organisations will talk about how we can open our home to someone for lunch, or with a quick text donate money to help… but it makes me remember and it makes me think…what about the rest of the year?
We are quick to judge, we see someone on the street with a cup held out, a sign that may say “please help…no food, no clothing, am cold” we may stop, we may dig in to our pockets, but how many of us think ” I wonder if he/she will be spending this on drugs etc” there is a great saying “do not judge others until you walk in their shoes, and as you will never walk in their shoes you can never judge” well… that person that you gave a few pennies to probable does not have a pair of shoes to call their own, so how much more so.
I once spoke with someone on the street who after buying a cup of coffee for told me a little of his story, he had a mental health issue that landed him in hospital, upon coming out he had nowhere to go, he was unable to find the help he needed so ended up wondering the streets, and had kept on wondering since.
Although at this time of year we all feel a little more caring and loving to our fellow-man, it’s so easy, whilst we sit in our home and talk about how cold it is out, how we turn up the thermostat a bit more that people are walking around the streets, in the sleet, in the snow, on ice, with nothing.
Women I think are naturally more vulnerable, and will resort to many a shameful thing in order to eat, in order to have a little bit of money in their hands.
As I remember my time out there, when I think, what I would really have needed, more than money, more than that cup of coffee, would have been for another human to stop, and talk to me, to make me feel I was worth something, anything, to make me feel that someone in the world saw me as a person, a person with something to contribute, rather than just a sack getting in the way on the street.
How wonderful it would be if next week and the week after and all the weeks after every person living on the street would have a conversation with someone who cares, a conversation with someone who may be able to ask “what do you need, that I would be able to help you get” and maybe change someone’s life for the better.
Wishing you all happiness over the holidays, but most of all warmth and love from the home that you are in.