I slept in my car once in a Tesco carpark. In that same week, I also slept in a borrowed tent on a YHA camping ground. Just over a year later, I was back to looking for a safe place to stay until dawn when my accommodation fell through in the new city I’d moved to on the other side of the world. Homelessness can strike so many, and for so many different reasons. Could I have stayed with a friend – quite possibly – but that meant swallowing my pride and admitting how I’d ended up in that situation through bad choices.
I do walk past the dozens of people I see every day in London sleeping rough, but not because I don’t care. Giving a few pounds to each of them isn’t feasible, and only helps short-term. Plus how do you pick a person to give a few coins to, when you know you can’t help everyone in the doorways of that street? Increasingly though I have been helping some individuals who I have got to know (those outside my regular supermarket, lunch venue or station). I also buy the Big Issue every week.
That week that I was technically homeless I discovered that there were very few options for help if you were single without children. Resources are stretched, and priority goes to families or the elderly. Young, single people are the most disadvantaged, and although my time without a roof was short, I did have the unfortunate task of trying to prepare for a job interview after a night camping in a tent. How do you get a new start when you are three steps behind, to begin with?
Donating my time to help set up a place to give people a head-start in a new future is something that I hope will make a small difference – much more than the donation of a few coins for a coffee.