The Homeless Are Not Just For Christmas

Himself asked me today where do homeless people go to the lavatory...funny sort of a question you might think...but that did make me wonder why we imagine we're living in some sort of advanced society when every town and city has people who are actually without a home...

Not through choice...not like the occasional dread-locked hippy family who pass through in their converted lorry, children waving happily from a window...but those without a roof over their heads...a bed to sleep in...a kettle to make a cup of tea or fill a hot-water bottle when it's chilly...no front door key safe in their pocket because they haven't a front door to open.

While we might think we're civilised because we have a freezer in the garage...wear a poppy during Remembrance week and drop a few coins into the box held by some elderly chap collecting for the local cats home...how can we regard ourselves as such, when people are wrapping themselves in layers of cardboard to sleep on a bench in St Stephens Green...

And I know many homeless people are alcoholics or drug users...caught in a downward spiral of despair...others are the relics of the Care in the Community project...suffering from mental health problems or slow in their learning...

Whatever does that say about us.

Teenagers, who still imagine the bright lights of London or Dublin will mean an end to a childhood of abuse and neglect, find themselves loitering in men's toilets to give some fat bloke a blow-job for enough cash to buy some chips...girls, recruited by other older women, totter about on high heels and short skirts while they wait on street corners for a john...seeking oblivion in a can of lighter fluid...

Just how far have we progressed since Victorian times, when child prostitutes of both sexes were thought the norm...when the Workhouse was the solution to the ragged poor...

Should you have been poor and maybe disabled in Mediaeval times, a Priory or a Monastery would have taken you in...given you a bed and food, a small job of work. You'd not have been hungry or cold in the depths of winter...

We have soup kitchens all year long...run by local Churches and groups of volunteers...over Christmas there are places to stay for two weeks...Dentists and Barbers give their services freely...there are heaps of clothes from which to choose a warm jacket or a pair of boots.

But what happens after the two weeks of festivities...

Then the homeless are back on park benches and lying over the heating vents of big stores...huddled in under- passes guarding their bags of bits and pieces. Passing round a bottle of Buckfast Tonic wine...sorting through dog ends picked up in the street to make a passable rollie...

There's a small campaign on Facebook...fill an unwanted handbag with soap, sanitary towels, toothpaste and toothbrush, a bar of chocolate, a packet of tobacco and a lighter...then give it to the next homeless woman or girl you see. Leave out the sanitary towels and add a razor and shaving soap for a man...packets of all-in-one dog food for those with a beloved companion.

If this makes you think...then that is the objective.

39 Replies

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  • Yes we should all think of the homeless through out the year not just at Christmas

    I have been homeless for four months with 3 children ,but was lucky to have friends that took us in for a few weeks at a time

    Take care Vashti

    Dorothy xx

  • Extremely well put. Thought provoking.

    And we judge too easily.

    But by the grace of God, there go you or I.

    Ann ☺

  • Hi vashti, Beautifully written, and certainly makes u think what goes on outside ur front door. We have a homeless man in Tamworth where I live ( probably lots but I only ever see him around the town ) and I always give a couple of quid if I have it spare, and dog food for his two lurches he has with him, It's not a lot but if it helps a little at least they will have food in their bellies for one night at least. Certainly makes me more grateful for the life I have after reading this. Xx Sonia xx

  • We had a homeless man in the next village and the whole community adopted him. He was even offered a flat when found sleeping in doorways, but turned it down. He was kept fed and supplied with clothing and boots but sadly died a few years ago. His funeral was very well attended. It is good to think of being in others' shoes at any time, but it is brought home at Christmas.

  • A very thought provoking post Vashti, it does make us realise we have a lot to be thankful for. xx

  • Very thought provoking, Vashti, and as always beautifully written. Last year for a play I was writing I investigated the history of a local community of Anglican nuns who ran a home for girls and young women who were at risk on the streets. Maybe it was a touch paternalistic and morally heavy handed but there was a charming letter from one of their charges who sent some money back to them to help them in their work. "I was a deal of trouble to the good sisters but thank them for the help they gave me."

    What would have gobsmacked the 'good sisters' was the idea their girls would have been allowed to leave the home at night and get into the carriages of their 'gentlemen friends', and disappear for days at a time. As happens to children in care today.

    Have we learnt nothing?

    K xxx

  • That's well written & beautifully well argued.

    I have worked with homeless people for over 30 years & the stories of tragic and broken lives remain as heart-wrenching now as ever. And the stories from people who have overcome dysfunctional & damaged childhoods to make positive contributions to society are amongst the most inspirational people I have ever meet.

    I started working with rough sleepers back in the days when almost every city centre railway station used to be full of down & outs. In the worst ones in London you couldn't even count them. Over the years through policy changes and professionalising services, that problem was largely tackled, but sadly with the cuts we now have we are seeing a massive re-emergence.

    I am a firm believer that every one of us is a lot closer to destitution than we might ever dare think, and I know of at least one former millionaire business owner who wound up dead from hypothermia in a shop doorway as his life collapsed around him, and I have seen too many intelligent, kind and sensitive people kill themselves, so thank you for writing so articulately on the subject.

    "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." - Anatole France

    By the way, you probably don't want to know the answer to the opening question.

  • I think a lot of it is caused by the mass closure of mental hospitals over the last few decades or so. Ok they weren't perfect but at least those unable to look after themselves properly had a bed and warm food. Now there is nowhere for them to go except on the streets. In a civilised society we would look after and help all of them, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. x

  • That certainly didn't help. particularly in the early 1990s, & the people running the homeless hostels (I managed one at the time) were very ill-equipped to deal with some of the people that were dumped in them.

    It culminated in cases like Jon Newby (an unskilled volunteer murdered in a hostel) & Jonathan Zito (murdered by a schizophrenic in London) and led to massive changes in how mental health and homeless services were run. in particular around 2003/4 time the Government invested around £2bn in services for homeless and other vulnerable people. That led to a huge improvement in training, property standards, quality of support planning & so on.

    Most councils though now have cut that spending, in some cases by 100%, and typically by well over half, meaning we are back to having those services run by low paid, untrained staff and volunteers which frightens me very much.

  • Hi Cough,yes same here in OZ.Years ago,I worked in one of those mental hospitals,in Melbourne.They all got up & dressed,had there brekky,& would go out on day leave,coming back for there tea etc.it was a real home for them,with support etc.when needed,& regular meds.dished out.They were all a family to each other.

    Now those places don't exist,& they are out on the streets,it is so sad. xxx

  • I completely agree. A lot of soldiers and single dads also seem to fall foul of the system and end up homeless which is so sad. It must be extremely frightening as well, something most of us could not imagine. If we are walking down the street in the dark and hear somebody behind us we would be scared but they have no security even when they are asleep. It's a very cruel world sometimes.

    Nat x

  • Homeless . Well put Vashti anyone could find them self in this situation through no fault of their own . Hate to think of anyone sleeping rough at any time but unimaginable this time of year . X

  • Very well written Vashti,as always😉It is such a sad situation.

    Your hubbys question made me smile.Harry always says the same when watching big crowds demonstrating etc😳xx

  • Yes a dog is not for Christmas. We have homeless in Jersey too. These people are interesting but just been unable to take the unfortunate knocks that life has thrown at them.

    I do my charity work all year. I feel it's the right for every person to have food and shelter.

    Thank you

  • Tony Blair has 32 homes, and he proffeses to be a good man. Why is it that those who have the least always give the most. ?

  • Hi starveycat no doubt he brought the 32 homes knowing when he opened the flood gates house would be rare as rocking horse muck, but he didn't care about that as long as all the people who came through the gate voted for him. It back fired on him and now we are paying the price millions of pounds being spent in benefit on these people yet we still have to go thought all the stress and often a court case to prove we are unfit for work, hospitals bursting at the seams trying to treat all these extra people and then the schools we now have 36 kids to a class no doubt Tony will have his kids educated in a private school

  • Hi Vashti, there was a letter recently in the 'I' newspaper recently commenting on the UK government pledge that every home should have a good broadband connection.

    The letter writer said how about each person has a home first.....or words to that effect.

    Thank you for the thought provoking piece of writing again.

  • Well said

  • A very moving and thought provoking post Vashti. My Aunty has a guest house not far from St Stevens Green and many , many homeless visit her back door for sustenance.

    So much money spent on wars and so little for the needy it just doesn't make any sense. huff xxx

  • reply for hufferpuffer...it's totally ludicrous the vast amount spent on wars pity those in power don't have their priorities sorted out

  • In our town there is a lady who sells the big issue. She charges £3 a copy, and sits outside the Boots store, rain or shine. She is pregnant. I have just been reading about the Big Issue on line and it says they sell for £2.50 and the vendors should have a badge. I am always torn when I pass her by, wondering whether to support her or not. I think I will have a chat with her next time I pass. If have a better understanding I might feel happier supporting her. Iris x

  • I agree with Coughalot2. The original meaning of Asylum was a place of refuge. Those places were indeed home to so many people. Those people would now be thrown out into the community, where finding their way way through the maze of benefits, paying bills and buying food is well nigh impossible.

    I visited different asylums over the years as my mother had mental health problems. She loved being in them once she was recovering. They were communities with beautiful gardens. The residents who were able to, did interesting things. They made things like baskets, pottery, quilts, embroidered things. Painted pictures and in addition did work for which they got paid.

    So many of the residents were heartbroken at being turned out and sent to live in lonely flats. Care in the community is an absolute joke. A CPN visits maybe once a month, possibly a Social Worker, once in a blue moon. What possible use is that to a vulnerable person? They may know little about shopping for the right food, and end up eating takeaways, or buying booze.

    No wonder so many find it simpler to live rough. I know of two people locally who choose to live this way. One is an elderly lady who cannot bear to sleep indoors, another a highly educated man who found modern life too much. Sadly, these days, a lot of rough sleepers are drug addicts or alcoholics. In Norwich a great deal has been done to help the homeless, which is not always the case elsewhere.

    As for Himself's question, the homeless use public toilets. There are plenty in the city. Others are forced to go behind bushes. All year round in Norwich, volunteer Vets go round and visit the dogs. There is a big Salvation Army Citadel where they can go to clean up and get clothes. The Salvation Army do such a lot, with their nightly soup and food runs. There is also a Night Shelter run by a charity.

    The sooner the Tories get kicked out the better, but with the Press being predominately Tory, Labour and other parties don't stand a chance. It was only when The Sun backed Blair that Labour won. I truly hate the way this country is run to the advantage of the Fat Cats. Now, all kinds of stories are emerging about corruption in high places. Nothing new about corruption but at least it is not secret any more.

  • reply for as...exceedingly few public toilets in Dublin...

  • But plenty of pubs with said facilities

  • reply for as...the places your Mother were in bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the hospitals I worked in!

  • The times I am referring to were the late 1960's, early 1970's.

    the 1940's/50's were a different story. She told me about over crowding and the horrid experimental treatments that went on.

    Later, she would bring home beautiful things she had made and tell me about the dances and concerts held at the hospital.

    I still think the mentally ill are better off, in some kind of protected environment, where they don't have to wrestle with day to day problems.

    All successive governments care about is saving money.

  • Hi Lyd12 when I lived nr Boston there was a big issue seller complete with identification every week I would pay for a magazine, but not take it I always bought him a hot sausage roll and some fruit. He went missing for 3 weeks when he came back I asked him if he was OK and had he been ill, he answered that his girlfriend and he had flown to some exotic place for a holiday I cannot remember were. I told him I had never been on a plane or had an exotic holiday !!!! ♥

  • reply for starveycat...I'd have had steam coming out of my ears!

  • The rich all have multiple homes whilst the rest of us, if we are lucky enough, have 1 (pause for the 2 minute silence) and we spend all our money on it and maintaining ourselves. Meanwhile the rich are praised for contributing to charity - the old laissie Faire (spelling?) and we have to be content with crumbs from the millionaires tables.

    It's obscene that some folk have several homes when so many don't have even 1. Why is it allowed? x

  • Because people are stupid and keep voting for it. Does my head in.

  • Well put Vashti and your post should make us all think. We should all be thankful for what we have and try and give what we can to help those less fortunate. xxx

  • Hi Star,

    yes, I suppose that is what I am dithering about - £3 is a lot of money to me, if someone needs it that's ok but how can you be sure? We are told by our local police not to give money to beggars, so I never do, but the magazine sellers? I remember reading of a scam collector of money for Help for Heroes, it is so hard to judge.

  • reply for Lyd...I'm certain the Big Issue has a set price and I do know the sellers have to wear a proper badge with their photo on it...wondering if the pregnant lady is pulling a fast one?

  • good post thank you I used to, when I was well stay in hotels etc and yes I admit it, take some of the toiletries they left in the bathroom - small soaps, little bottles and sachets of shampoo, hand cream etc. and when I had a few pass them onto a homeless shelter to distribute as I thought they were an ideal size for homeless people to carry - they were always well received. My way of distributing wealth ha,ha xx

  • reply for undine...it's only another way of robbing the rich to feed the poor!

  • Well written as usual vashti. I don`t think we realise how easy it could be to become homeless if we hit hard times and had no family or friends to turn to. Homeless people weren`t always so and who knows what circumstances led to their position now.. Sheila x

  • If Society is judged by the way it treats the old, the sick and the most vulnerable, then we are truly damned. I have watched little television this week as the hypocrisy of poppy-flaunting, grave-faced politicians sickens me when I know that so many veterans of recent "armed interventions" are having to deal with physical and mental trauma with the bare minimum of support. I have lost count of the petitions I have signed to get a fair deal for people like the Afghan interpretors whose lives are threatened now that we've pulled out - thank God for social media, at least it gives a voice to the voiceless. I'd better stop there - I get so angry that nothing is ever learned from past mistakes.

  • Another thought provoking post Vashti. So many of the homeless are there through no fault of their own. It is so sad that some people have nothing, not even a roof over their heads. I always think 'there for the grace of god go I'

  • I've been thinking along the same lines myself, but you've put it into words very well like I can't. I've been trying to think of some way I could help.

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