“Why do you spend your free time helping those dregs of society….”
That was a question I was sent following a post I put up about me running a group session at The Brick Homeless Charity and it seriously enraged me!
On the 3rd Friday of every month I voluntarily run a group session on Mental Health Awareness for the homeless people in and around Wigan. It started well over a year ago with me bringing in pasties and cakes and delivering a powerpoint presentation, but it soon became apparent that people who attended just wanted to talk. I was so very nervous when I first started and initially it was very disjointed, some couldn’t settle and others just laughed throughout but in time people soon settled and started to open up.
The group session developed into more of me listening while they talked with only bits of me intervening every now and again. The highest number I’ve had in a session is 12 but the lowest I’ve had is 1. Both sizes of sessions are as important because it transpired that the session with only the 1 person became vitally important. The individual just talked and I was on receive all the way through. They thanked me at the end of it because they had been allowed to “let it all out”.
Living on the streets in its truest form isn’t only physically demanding. Try to imagine how mentally demanding it can be. Living on very little sleep, being on hyper alert all the time, fearing for their own safety, crushing feelings of hopelessness and shame as passers by either stare at them in disgust or pity, or worse, look away in case ‘they’ ask them for anything. Add to all that, having to mentally cope with the reason they are homeless in the first place and it’s enough to take anyone over the edge.
Those ‘dregs of society’ as you call them are all human beings who have the right to be heard and treated as you would expect to be treated yourself. We are all only one pay packet or life changing event away from living on the streets. Some of the people I have come across throughout my life have been victims of circumstance and it could be any one of us. One lovely man had lived with his mum in a council house all his life but his mum passed away and he was given 2 weeks to move out because his name wasn’t on the rent book. He had lost his mum and now his family home and all the belongings within that. Another had a hugely successful career, 2 children, wife and a lovely 5 bedroom house. He worked away for weeks at a time but arrived home once to discover his wife was having an affair. He had a breakdown and lost everything. A lovely lady had struggled to cope after her daughter passed away. She started drinking heavily but then became reliant on it. Eventually it was all she could think of and sold everything she had, spent all her money from payday on booze, collated huge debt and ended up losing everything. Another lost his job, didn’t really have a skill, couldn’t get a new job and just gave up. One young lad was disowned by his family because ‘they found out’ he was gay….. all these are every day life changing events that could affect anyone at any time.
Yes there are a small minority who con people by faking homelessness to fund their habit, or just out of sheer greed but the majority genuinely need our support. Let’s not judge people based on their current situation. Please remember that one day it could be you or someone you know. Be kind always.