I have recently started my research project, which aims to raise awareness of homelessness. I am doing this because I believe that Homelessness is an issue that we are becoming desensitised to due to general media perceptions and this needs to change. I do not think it is fair that some people have missed out on certain opportunities and are treated unfairly by some members of the general public because of the situation they are in. We have heard many times that your current situation does not define you, so why is this the case for someone who is Homeless.
A section of this project will be dedicated to the stories of those who are homeless. Speaking to them has really opened my eyes to some of the truths behind homelessness. It was sad to realise that part of my general view on Homelessness was based on the incorrect perceptions that society gave me. I hope that by sharing their stories, I hope I am able to educate myself, but also help you understand what it is really like to be homeless and change some of the general misconceptions you may have towards this issue.
I decided to start my project in Charing Cross, because I was amazed at the number of Homeless people I saw around there. I was fortunate to have been offered a Spring Internship at a Bank nearby, and every time I would walk home from the office I was shocked by the number of Homeless people I would see on the streets. I considered Charing Cross to be quite an affluent area so just automatically assumed that there would not be many rough sleepers around. However, this was not the case.
For me, it was just crazy to think that there were people who walked past them every day and most likely owned thousands to their name, but not even give the homeless person the time of day. It does not a huge amount of effort to buy food or warm clothing or simply give change to them, but no one seemed to care. This is when I knew I had to try to raise some form of awareness in this area.
We forget that most of them had ‘normal’ lives like us, but things were not so fortunate for them. Take for instance Tony, who grew up in Brixton. Tony had a job, a wife and four beautiful kids, but however, he ended up homeless. He lost his flat through the council. He was evicted for noise, even though he did not own any items for this to be possible. The allegations were not true however things were not in his favour and he was forced to sign his flat away. Since 1992, he has been living on and off the streets, sofa surfing and staying in hostels. Now he is permanently on the streets of Charing Cross. Before he lost his home, he was doing various things. He worked for the ministry of defence, he sometimes worked in the local market, as well as working in a pub.
Tony was so lovely and open when talking to us. We asked him if he had ever received any help from the Government and he said no. He wrote to MPs but got no response. He told us how he was supposed to get an accommodation from Southwark council, but as soon as they found out that he was somewhere temporarily (bearing in mind he was still officially homeless), they no longer felt the need to help him. At this point, I felt extremely sorry for Tony. He seemed like such a lovely guy and it was not fair that he had to go through all this.
We asked him what his biggest challenges were and he said that it was trying to cope with his depression and not being able to see his kids. He was not even sure of the current location of all his kids. We asked him more about his wife and he broke down. I felt heartbroken. We changed the subject as we could see that this was a very touchy subject for him and the least we wanted was to upset him even more. Tony told us that his dream was to work in a gaming company. He always grew up with games, and this is something he was very fond of.
It was so nice talking to Tony, but it was also very sad leaving him. We gave him a food pack that we made, but deep down I knew that this was not enough. It broke my heart to see how much hope he had lost. You could see that he did not believe anything positive was going to come his way. If Tony was not homeless, I would like to believe he would be living a normal life with his family.
I had a lot on my mind when I got home. I could only focus on the people, who were homeless. I wrote a piece to myself yesterday, and I am going to share it with you all:
“Today has made me realise how fortunate I am. I am in no position to complain about anything. I have a roof over my head, I have a family, I am able to clean myself every day, I have an education, I have everything I need to survive and live a happy life. However, not everyone is this fortunate. Unforeseen circumstances have left people on the streets for many years. Talking to homeless people has really humbled me. Listening to what they go through made me realise that I should not be complaining about the little stresses I have because it is nothing compared to what they go through. In fact, they would love to live my life. I feel so bad that they go through this and I can’t do anything about it now. The people I met today are all on my mind. I’m thinking about Tony and how he is depressed. I’m thinking about John, who is trying to protect his wife Debbie. I’m even thinking about Trevor, who has so much hate for the police. They have all lost so much faith and hope. I honestly pray that God guides and protects them. I pray that one day, a Good Samaritan will find them and allow them to live their lives again.”
Thank you for reading. My aim is to share as many stories as possible about the different homeless people that I meet across the UK. Just from Tony’s story, I hope you have taken something away from this.