I came across the other day a Facebook post that begun thus: “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a home, we never know the reason people are sleeping in doorways, we never bother to stop and ask. So can I ask why it is except able for people to kick them and p–s on them while they are asleep.”
It gave rise to a number of responses, most of which was to express anger that people could be so cruel and insensitive. My own response was “sadly, it happens and has been observed frequently, ever since I got actively involved with homelessness over ten years ago. There is a nasty side in the psyche of some to p–s on the underdog who can’t fight back. Happily, I have seen, too many to recall, acts of kindness. That’s what gives me hope”. What I would like to do to the perpetrators of these acts is unrepeatable, but people like this do exist and this is all too evident, for these must be bad/sad people, who for some perverse reason, do such acts.
This is not going to be a profound or ground breaking posting. I have said much that I needed to say on the matter, several times, ever since my early days as a Street Pastor when it was a regular occurrence for us to come across a rough sleeper who had been treated in the way described above and other bad ways besides. The sad reality is there are homeless folk and in my own town, Southend (population circa 170,000 people, maybe up to 100 persons sleep rough each night), and for all sorts of reasons. Some choose to be; others don’t. Some have brought in their homeless state upon themselves, yet because of our common humanity deserve our compassion even so. This is usually one of those situations when judging should be low down on our list of response choices.
If you think about it, sleeping in doorways is not a good option because of the risk to personal safety, but all too often there are not that many or any better options when it comes to finding a place to sleep. Yet it has been noted though that there is a doorway culture that is more linked to the social aspect of homelessness, and also provides visibility for generating cash through asking passers by for money, for some do have warmer places to retire to for the night, but because of beer ‘syndicates’ they are members of (i.e. whoever gets paid giro next buys the beers etc.) and begging opportunities they will risk the cold and the violence. It is a classic ‘rock and a hard place’ scenario, and includes those with a flat to sleep in.
I write here not so much to debate the causes of and cures for homelessness or even what we as individuals can do about it (I have already done so in my earlier blogs) but rather to raise the matter for folk to ponder. If I can suggest one thing people can do when meeting folk who intend to or have been sleeping in the doorways, who we can look at in the eye, is to be nice to them (and it is better to give than to receive), for there, but for the grace of God, go I.