It’s time to talk about the homeless crisis we have in the UK.

I know no-one wants to talk about it. But hear me out please.

Now the weather is changing, and getting warmer, I can stop constantly worrying about desperate human beings shivering on the streets because rightly or wrongly they felt they had no alternative and in turn have made those streets their home.

Imagine making that decision. Or perhaps, more realistically it wasn’t a decision they even got to make… they lost a job, a house a life. They were being abused. They escaped from a hellish existence. They were gripped by drug addiction.

Imagine that was you, or someone you knew.

You’d want support right?

  • Love?
  • Help?
  • Assistance?

So what I cannot understand is where this undertone of negativity has come from towards the homeless?

I recently saw these types of comments online and on social media around begging and homelessness I was distraught.

“Most of them in London make £200 a day and drive home”

Right so the 20 odd people I see on my early morning running commute at 6am, in sleeping bags were… at home? Enjoying their days wage? (Bearing in mind five years ago I would barely see a soul).

“They choose to be there. There fakers (sic)”

Right. Again, at what point do you think a life eating kindly given sandwiches, eeking out hours and hours in a stagnant life would be anyone’s choice?

“If you give them money, they will spend it on drugs or alcohol”

True. But firstly – do you enjoy a drink when life is getting you down?

Yes.

And secondly, if that worries you then ask what they need and supply that instead. Buy them dinner, a hot dinner. Or find out the nearest hostel and take them there if you’re worried about how your money is spent.

Often with addiction you’ll do things that aren’t pleasant or positive, so yes, someone might take your money and do something bad with it. But that isn’t because they are a bad person.

It is because bad circumstances led them to that place.

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I don’t believe anyone is born bad. You’re a victim of your own circumstance. And some people can clamber out of it – with help and support – and some can’t. That is a simple fact.

So amidst all this negative scaremongering… let’s have a look at some more ACTUAL FACTS and statistics around the UK’s current homeless crisis…

  • Since 2010, rough sleeping estimates show an increase of 169%
  • Rough sleeping is thought to be the most visible manifestation of homelessness, but a significant amount still remains invisible, many report sleeping out of sight, in tents or ‘hiding’ in places they couldn’t be found
  • 34% of respondents in a Crisis study, reported mental illness issues, and a link between homelessness and ill-health are highlighted within so many case studies
  • To get a home through the council quickly you have to be considered a ‘priority case’ and 45% of those looking for a home do not qualify as priority for a number of factors
  • It is estimated 4,000-5,000 people sleep rough per day, some say the figure is as many as 8,000 – no study has been able to truly undertake the task of documenting the truth
  • Although technically when job seeking without an address you can use the JobCentre, when looking for a job, hygiene and being able to try and show you are responsible is beyond difficult if you admit you are homeless

So what does that tell you?

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Listen, there will always be a percentage of people who can’t get on in “normal” society for a variety of economical and socioeconomic reasons, but this sudden and extreme rise is because of fundamental things not being done or cut by our government. And instead of looking at ways to help, they and the media are trying to demonise those who are now trapped in the horror of being without a home and job.

If you actually tried talking to a homeless person, and understood what their situation was, plus offered understanding or financial help then it might help to remove any stigma you feel towards them.

But at the same time, just because you gave someone a tenner, don’t expect their lives to change or that they owe you anything. These issues are far more deep rooted than that.

The biggest killer in men under 45 is suicide. How horrific is that.

Like really really let that settle in for a moment.

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What kind of world are we living in where homelessness is up by 169 percent and suicide one of the highest it’s ever been.

We live in the Western world where relatively speaking things are supposed to be more civilised and that we have systems and models in place to ensure everyone has a roof over their head, an education and a chance to work.

But essentially something isn’t working, and the problem will only increase.

We can’t sweep the homeless under the carpet, despite what Windsor council tries to do ahead of the Royal wedding, or Bournemouth council for installing anti homeless bars. These are human beings. Just like you and me.

They deserve dignity.

I 100% understand that some people don’t want to be helped, or they are destructive or criminal. That is the nature of every society.

However don’t tar everyone with the same brush just because you don’t want to have to witness the sadness and horror that is our homeless problem right now.

Think about it next time you walk past someone – especially if they have a sign up asking for help – sack off that Starbucks coffee (who don’t pay corporation tax in the UK) and give the money to them instead.

Recently I bought myself a tiny bottle of wine and crisps after a stressful day at work – which totally goes against my weekday lifestyle. So when I got to Finsbury Park station I stopped and asked a homeless guy if he wanted it instead. His face lit up like Christmas. He was so grateful for 10 minutes of enjoying taste and flavours and forgetting who or where he was.

I am not saying that is the solution, but treat humans like humans and perhaps we will start a happier trend.

I work at the Red Consultancy and Centrepoint has been our charity as long as I have worked there and more. The charity provides accommodation, health support and life skills to help 16-25 year-olds’ get back into education, training and employment. We help out with their PR for fundraising events, and I’ve done the ‘Sleep Out’ for four years, where we help to raise awareness by sleeping outside for one night. Just one night. It doesn’t even scratch the surface.

If you want to get more involved with helping the homeless then visit Centrepoint or Crisis.

Please pass on this message and help the homeless in a positive way.

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