As I have said before, I am a fan of BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day” which according to Wikipedia “is a daily scripted slot on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 offering “reflections from a faith perspective on issues and people in the news”, broadcast at around 7:45 each Monday to Saturday morning. Nowadays lasting 2 minutes and 45 seconds”. Today’s presenter was Anne Atkins, a long time favourite of mine, and her subject was homelessness, an important part of my own community activism.
You can check out here for what she said, which from what I could make out pretty much nails what is going on when it comes to many homeless folk, especially those we term as “sofa surfers”, who more often than not don’t get counted when it comes to official counts. She starts her thought by reflecting on the plight of two families without their own home and while not literally on the streets suffer the deprivations of living in someone else’s home. She recounted the statistic 131,000 children will not be staying in their own home this Christmas because they do not have a home they can call their own.
Surprisingly, Anne recounted how she and her family had once been homeless and how they had to rely on the generosity of others to put them up temporarily, but not without considerable discomfort, but admitting she was a lot better off than many. She continued by recounting other instances of people she has known being homeless and poured scorn on those who claim they only have themselves to blame and at the tactics of some local authorities to move such people on, including boarding up portals, putting spikes to deter rough sleepers, banning those feeding the homeless and making by-laws to fine the homeless, as well as we the general public that all too often look the other way rather than doing our bit to help.
It is quite possible that Anne Atkins overstated her case in order to make her case. Mine is not to quibble one way or the other but rather to make the point that where I live in Southend, while I have seen a considerable increase in homeless provision over the years, I still keep coming across a comparable number, compared with 10 years ago say, of homeless people, including sofa surfers and, not mentioned so far, people living in decidedly unhomely homes as well as living in tents and a variety of other places. From what I can make out, Southend is better off than many parts of the country, but can still do better. In closing, and unsurprisingly, she refers to the one who came to Earth at Christmas, 2000 years ago and had no home, and then had to flee persecution for the next two years. She rounds off with those all too pertinent words of that same Christmas child: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.“