Keep Your Coins They Need Change

As most of you know I’m an early commuter to work each morning and I am always intrigued by my fellow travellers that I meet en route. One of those is a homeless girl, about the same age as one of my nieces, who I often bump into on my way to pick up a newspaper. There’s very obviously a pretty girl under all those tatty layers and in another time & place she would be planning nights out with her friends or buying make up. We always exchange pleasantries and I always stop to pet Billy, her beautiful Staffordshire bull terrier who like many homeless companions is probably better cared for than many pets. Occasionally, I’ll pick her up a cup of tea when I collect my first coffee of the day.

Last week she told me that someone had given her the money to purchase a coat for Billy as he didn’t like the cold and I nodded as like many cynical souls thought the money would probably be spent on booze or cigarettes. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I next bumped into them to see that Billy was proudly sporting a very nice fleecy lined jacket and looking a lot happier for it

The other morning, however, she was quite distressed and said that another homeless person had stolen their tent and contents including the dog food. “Can you believe stealing from the homeless? It’s not like I’ve f***ing got that much in the first place” and I could have wept as she shyly showed me a sweater she’d discovered carelessly discarded next to one of the litter bins.

I was deeply touched by her plight and like I know many of you would have done, I bought her a few items from the shop just to keep her going. As we shared a McDonalds breakfast, I tried to reassure her by telling her that life wouldn’t always be this bleak for her but from someone who’d never been hungry or homeless a day in their life, I’m sure my words sounded hollow. The daily grind of finding somewhere to take safe shelter out of the bad weather for the night and just getting through the next day to start the drudgery all over again. It’s no wonder that many turn to drugs and alcohol to blot out the harsh reality and at the end of the day who I am I to judge them. What do I know about sleeping fitfully just in case you’re attacked, asked to move on or have your entire world stolen from you. Like so many of us I know nothing about being so cold and hungry that I don’t know whether I will make it through the day let alone week.

The fact is whatever city or country we live in there are always going to be insufficient safe accommodation for the amount of homeless people who live on our streets whilst our governments spend billions in foreign aid. I see many homeless on my way in to work many being moved along by retailers as they open up for the day; have we really become that desensitized to those in need on our doorstep?

A conversation with our grocery delivery driver, who also confided in me that he had also been made homeless after the break-up of his marriage, made me realise that we are all only one step away from finding ourselves in the same situation. The loss of a job followed by eviction is an all too common tale. Don’t believe me? In a heartbeat you can find yourself on the same downward spiral as many others before you and it may take several years to turn your life around; some just aren’t that lucky and will end their days on the streets. Try securing a job without an address and then tell me how easy it is.

So in the true spirit of paying it forward this year the very next time you pass a homeless person at the very least spare them a smile because that really could be you.

For those finding themselves with housing difficulties or just want to become involved try contacting Passage or Shelter

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20 thoughts on “Keep Your Coins They Need Change

  1. Not really a post you want to hit the like button on but given there is no other option such as ‘thought-provoking’ it will have to do, we have a trolley in our canteen at work where people can put stuff that one of the staff who works with a charity helping and supporting the homeless getting off the streets takes to help them. It i not just about taking someone off the street it is about helping them learn to cope with life as well, if you get what I mean. They need help obviously in actually getting a roof over their head but once they have it help furnishing it, learning in some cases how to run a home, how to get the help they need, Personally it seems that a huge part of the problem is that so many agencies need to actually find a way to work together, there needs to be residential rehab available that can not only help people get clean but to also help them get the help to make a fresh start after, there has to be the options for education or apprenticeships to give them the belief they can have the lives the dreamed of. And sad I don’t think the answer is as simple as money even if we took the money we send abroad and spent it all on this problem it would not make a difference until the whole system was changed.

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    • I completely agree with everything you’ve said but these additional resources cost money and the safe shelters here are woefully inadequate for the sheer number of homeless people and the system does need a radical shake up. I do my little bit by helping out with cv writing and interview coaching when I can and I love what you and your colleagues do too, it’d be nice to see this in a few more supermarkets so that customers can donate.

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  2. So moving. And the very first thing I thought of was another friend of mine, based in England, who has begun an appeal to get coats for homeless dogs — she has a Facebook page: Give a Dog a Coat. She’s collected many coats thus far; maybe you could coordinate to get some to the homeless in your area? *shrug*

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  3. It is a gut wrenching reality for far too many people in an age where some have so much isn’t it Tink? Personally, I believe each of us should be responsible for and accountable to, the community in which we live. The more government intervenes, the less we as neighbors, hear the call to step up and volunteer our time, money, goods, services…ourselves, because the path to thinking ‘there’s a government program for that, let them deal with it’ has been clearly laid and in thinking that way, we’ve let ourselves off the hook and the homeless become bumps in the sidewalk that we step around or step over. We’ve lost our collective civic minds! Big cities aren’t an excuse either, because cities are just a jigsaw puzzle of small villages comprised of like-minded or culturally connected or even economically driven individuals where we may not always know the names, but chances are we’ve seen the faces on a daily basis. Those are our neighborhoods. Those are our neighbors. Those are our people. And but for the grace of God, they could be us.
    This is such an important post Tink, and you’re a great example of who we all could be, should be, in the neighborhoods in which we live and work. You’ve heard the idea “It takes a village to raise a child’? Well, it doesn’t stop there…as we all know, a child never outgrows their parents.

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    • Hello my friend and I just loved loved what you wrote. I am a village girl through & through so I regularly stop and speak to strangers whilst most of my friends think I’m a big weirdo but I think its just a village mindset. In different circumstances we could all be in the same situation but I hope that none of us are ever too busy to hold out a hand to someone in need what a dire world this would be if that were the case.

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  4. What a heartfelt story. It made me cry. Everything you said is so true. She is fortunate to receive your kind smile and words of encouragement and help. Thanks for sharing your spirit with the rest of us.

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  5. Haven’t seen you for so long, so nice to open this and see such heart. You are so correct in all you have said. So many of us turn our eyes away from need, when it would be so simple to at least say, ‘good morning’ or offer another simple greeting.

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  6. I know I read this when you published, but not sure I commented. It is SO true. Esp. for women who leave bad marriages when they are over 50 or 60. They are in real danger of being homeless and winding up on the streets. Since, one of our past presidents (UGH) shut down our mental institutions, mentally off persons are left to wander the streets into our homeless populations, plus BEING on the street can make you crazy. Scary times. Thanks for sharing.

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