Monday, August 01, 2016

Dont Patronize Homelessness... Its More Complex Than Just Needing Shelter

In the UK, and perhaps elsewhere, it has become common for politicians and celebrities, emotionally blackmailed by some charities, to attempt to sleeping outside at least on one night to "highlight the issue of homelessness. But you ask yourself, highlight it for whom?

Having volunteered in services that support homeless people and listen to the story of a random many, it is insightful to learn that almost all are
not homeless simply because they do not have have a roof over their head. What you learn is that homelessness is usually the last stop in a myriad of problems. In fact, at the time many starts sleeping outside, the ship has sailed; everything has fallen apart, no job, no income, no access, no proof of address or identity (yes both are linked and having a passport or driving license with an address that you cant prove is useless), depression might have set in and even some may have turned to desperate measures like alcohol over-use if not drugs.

In recent times, we have seen millionaires, politicians, celebrities, royals including Prince William, and even the Archbishop of York, sleep out in the street to apparently "highlight homelessness". 

Yet, if these people who are well connected and are core part of the ruling powers and decision-makers - or at least has direct lines to the government - are claiming to highlight an issue, the question then is, for whom are they highlighting it? For ordinary poor people who themselves are at the mercy of their powers?

When a person who has most things going for them goes to sleep outside so to show support or highlight homelessness, it is patronizing. It is so because it is and will never be the same for the actual homeless person. It feels like mocking the homeless because at the end of the day, you are sleeping outside with the strong assurance that your bank account is healthy; your home and cosy bed are waiting. And in fact in some cases, your security details are hanging about watching out for any unwelcome approach by any body,  with the police on alert that you're there. Sleeping outside to support homelessness is useless, unhelpful, ignorant, cheap publicity and above all, unproductive.

For rich people who do this, even ordinary folks who aren't exceptionally rich, instead of this cowardly, selfish - yes selfish because many who do this just use it to further their career or increase their public rating and likeability - act, you could pressure your friends and colleagues in govt to improve policies that affect the homeless. These include but not limited to;
  • Mental health services,
  • Counselling services
  • Back to work schemes,
  • Legal aid
  • Less rigid process for getting help from local authorities,
  • Intervention in home repossession by banks,
  • Schemes for changing career especially after age 35,
  • Funding for charities who support the homeless and other vulnerable people,
  • Improve and less beauracratic welfare system,
  • And many more.
You could also discreetly make a donation or volunteer your time because many many of us do with our pennies and time without making it about ourselves. Or better still, you could take in one or more homeless persons into your big mansions until they put the pieces of their lives together and able to return to their feet. And yes, that'd teach you the wisdom that homelessness doesn't end with a roof over your head or in one night.

Otherwise when next you celebrity, millionnaire, royal, politician, well-heeled 'public' person, sleep outside, it could be useful for a stranger to just walk over you, step on you, kick you, throw a used can or package [almost] on you, or even roughen you up. But none of these will happen because your security is round the corner. And your driver is waiting to scurry you home at your need for a warm bath if not including massages and doctors' check. And the police is on alert for your safety. You see? None of these for the actual homeless person.

I know none of you rich people will read this but for my readers, I hope you see the vileness and unhelpfullness of this action. Its not that I don't admire support for homelessness, not at all. But support has to be realistic and considerate; especially of the issue it want to deal with.
Our govt is not doing enough for ordinary citizens. They make policies that line the pockets of the richest, not policies that tackle the many different issues that eventually get some [of us] to become homeless.
And that, is the problem. If appropriate policies are made, we can reduce homelessness by a lot through preventing issues that lead to homelessness.

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