In my daily newsfeed this morning, I came across two articles that brought home to me that the attitudes to some people toward homeless folk are a far cry from what I reckon they should be.
The first titled: “Homeless could ‘end’ seaside town, business leader says” quotes the leader of Torbay’s Chamber of Commerce calling for a homeless charity to relocate from the town arguing that it encourages homelessness to the detriment of local business. The second titled “Bournemouth’s ‘anti-homeless’ bench bars to be removed” was in the light of a local outcry against this move to discourage rough sleepers by preventing them from laying down.
Yesterday, I had two sobering experiences. My first was with a lady seeking advice. She had noticed a rough sleeper near to where she lived who did not engage with the local homeless charity because she didn’t rate it as helpful but still needed help, but where to find it? I responded doing my normal stuff of not taking sides and not suggesting things that could not be delivered on, trying to point out what helps were available (and not) and what this lady might do to help, mindful that it would still be not enough. My second was with my doing register duty, checking in folk to use the mini bus service to the homeless shelter operating last night. I told two people who once again wanted to self refer that we were full and while we try to squeeze people in they really needed to be referred for all sorts of reasons, including respecting the rules and not jumping the queue, which I won’t go into further (although we did relent). I told another person she could not use the service because she had been excluded due to earlier misbehavior (although I did her give a sleeping bag), and was able to engage in constructive conversation with her and her advocate friend, who was arguing her case to be “let in”.
As I believe all these stories illustrates, responding to homelessness is often not a straight forward business and mine is not to judge but rather do the little I can to help and encourage others to do likewise. The fact that at least two councils (and there are many more) appear unenlightened and unresponsive on the matter seems to illustrate there is much needing doing when it comes to helping the homeless and changing peoples’ attitudes. My own mantra is to say it as it is and as I told my advice seeking friend: it is beholden on us to show compassion toward the homeless, based on at least some knowledge.