Street homelessness- Kindness can kill. But only if you don't understand it yet.

 I'm not sure how this blog post will come across but I wanted to write it whilst I'm in raw emotion, whilst I'm sort of in a little way frustrated, angry or perhaps on a mission.

When I think of my book Poems From a Runaway and why I really want it to succeed, in my mind there are another subset of people that I really want to give a voice for and something which right now I feel is so close to my heart that I have no shame in admitting that I almost shed a tear of love for.
 Perhaps I can spot my future mental health problems ahead already? Who knows?

By now those following me or may have read Poems From a Runaway know that I've been currently raising awareness of my experiences of being in care and running away with missing children's charities and social workers.
But in my story, during my days as a teenager sleeping rough in the west end, there are another unspoken-for group of people that often get brushed aside whenever we as a society talk about homelessness, poverty and politics.

What has inspired this article was in fact a post on Twitter I saw this morning from a homeless charity recommending to people that it is much better to give money to a homeless charity rather than give money/food/clothes to.. (I didn't actually see the rest of the post as they had to write the rest on another tweet, but I presumed I knew where this was heading.)
We've all seen the signs around discouraging street begging and handing over stuff to the homeless.



If only the world was as clear-cut as some people make out. It's a philoshopy that would work in an ideal world, but reality is far from ideal and those going through journeys of homelessness know that more than anyone. 

 I know I've got quite a deep insight into the world of begging having have done it from 12-15 years old (and for a little bit at 16). 
Despite having many times of destitution, I myself had my lucrative days for sure. The affects of my childhood traumas hadn't really caught up with me then  and in many respects I was extremely fortunate to buying knickerbockerglories and grams of hash instead of crack rocks and heroin.

But there were in fact many other times when hunger and sleep deprivation had been driven to it's limits, and often in front of my very eyes I could see others that had been going through it long-term.
See us street kids, we learn something because we have to, it's fight or flight.
But like I've mentioned before,  I feel that no one really sees those out on the streets that don't put themselves on show.

Those that have read my book and understand my character could most likely imagine it when I had shared my begging money with others on the streets.
I remember one guy that was to later occupy my doorway at Tokyo Joes that had actually turned down the money I'd offered him, simply out of pride.

But there are many others out there that need the help that people don't see, and slogans such as 'Kindness Kills' do to some degree have their merits...but perhaps those writing them they may be unknowingly causing further despair to many other people already struggling.

As not everyone that reads these signs have themselves experienced what life can be like on the streets, perhaps it's easy to overlook that homeless services these days can be few and far between, limited further due to cuts and in many cases as it often has been -  only open for less than a handful of hours every day.

Sure it's true that millions of pounds every week across the country is going to the hands of hard drug dealers through begging whilst police forces claim to struggle to stop it, but even there lies many deeper untold stories of those with long-term drug problems struggling to get the framework and support they need to overcome the most devastating addictions that I've ever witnessed. 

But away from those that wrap sleeping bags around their legs and place themselves on show, perhaps people can easily overlook the fact that we have many others spending evenings on their own huddled in doorways with no one to talk to, and no one that comes to offer help.
If you think I may be over exaggerating then please remember I myself have been ignored by the public at 13 years old whilst literally starving, tired and weak, and during those times nobody at all responded to my cries for help.

I didn't know where many of the day centers were back then, and even if I did then perhaps I may have missed their opening hours or not got in. Remember that these places are often ran by volunteers and so are only open for practical immediate services such as food and clothing for a short space of time, if it all. 

Have you yourself walked through city streets day in day out for what may be your only meal of the day after getting only a few hours sleep in a park or a doorway?
Thank goodness for the volunteers and street services out there that go out of their way to provide food, drinks and resources to the homeless. But lets not forget that so many also don't find the help they need. 



I often find myself wondering of the lives of the old bag ladies that were huddled into doorways at night. Perhaps the homeless day centers that I would visit both as a youngster and an adult could have been too loud for them at times? What tragedy in their lives had led to them living like this? Is it purely mental health or did something happen to them? Do they even trust people any more?

 Sure the 'Kindness Kills' and similar signs and messages often relate to street begging in particular, but I worry about these slogans being misinterpreted by those reading them. 
Perhaps the lines between someone being a 'career beggar' and someone that is simply a 'rough sleeper in need' can be too easily blurred.


So whatever signs you read relating to not giving directly to homeless people, please remember that even many of those you see begging have already lived a somewhat institutionalized life for a variety of reasons.
It's one thing saying that you understand depression, but it's another to say you understand having to learn to cope with it over life pretty much completely on your own and completely winging it as many out there living on the streets are doing.
Many of those people will still likely be sitting in those doorways during Christmas and on their significant milestone birthdays.

So what do I want people to take from this? I want people to not underestimate how much of an impact a small act of kindness can make for anybody, and it is certainly one of my main messages in my book.
If everyone would have left me for someone else to deal with, despite being a missing teenager and not actually technically homeless,  I would certainly be a different person than I am today, and perhaps not for the best, especially in my growing years.

It's for you the reader to start learning between those that truly need the money and help and those that are quite clever at saying the right stuff to get it from you.

There's a lot too all this, but claiming that homeless charities can take on the mammoth task of providing practical help for every homeless person is a fantasy statement in my opinion. 
Compassion. Use it or lose it.


You can find out more and pre-order the latest edition of Poems From a Runaway at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/a-runaways-story-of-living-on-the-streets



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