The Homeless in EnglandIntroductionI decided to study the homeless’ situation before we went to England, so I triedto get information about it via the internet, but it was so much informationthat I soon gave up…
When we got to England I thought about changing subject to the pub culturebecause it seemed easier to write about, but after a few days I had seen so manyhomeless people that I got used to it and therefor dared to talk to them and askthem questions about their situation and why they where homeless. Many peoplejust walked right by the homeless without even look at them (rather the reverse,look another way), but other people stopped to talk to them and buy their paper.I’ve used the homeless people as sources and also their paper. When I came homeI searched on the internet to get information and there was a lot of it, so Ichoosed some headings and took a closer look at them.
Who’s homeless?I thought, before I went to England, that every homeless person was that byhis/her own choice, but after talking to them and read about it I know that someof the homeless is that by their own choice. They choose to be homeless fordifferent reasons, like a protest against the society or just to try thehomeless life.25% of the homeless are war veterans and most of them from Vietnam. They arementally traumatised by their war experiences, some of them are disable andothers are just unable to find work so they can pay a rent.25% of the homeless are children and many of them are alone. They’re maybe run-aways who left home because there was no food at home, or because they’revictims of rape, incest or violence. Many of them are “throwaways”, whoseparents tell them to leave home or won’t allow them to return home once they’veleft.
Many of the homeless are elderly people with fixed income, and I guess that’snot the traditional image of homeless people. They receive about 450 a month inbenefits and if they pay 350 for rent it’s pretty logical that they can’t livea decent life. Many elderly people are living in poverty in an apartment with noproper heating, no water etc.
, and many of the elderly homeless are afraid to goto soup kitchens or shelters, so they aren’t seen on the streets.MythsThere’s a lot of myths going around about the homeless. Very often these mythsare told by someone without any or with just a little knowledge about thehomeless people and their life. Here’s some of the myths:Myth:They want to be homeless.Fact: Some of them yes, but less than 6% of the homeless are homelessby their own choice. I spoke to a man who told me he used to live in Scotland,and that he had a house of his own, a TV, a VCR and so on, but after aconcert in London about a year ago, he decided to stay in Brighton to try”the homeless life”.
Now he tried to earn money, so he could get home toScotland again.Myth:They are heavy drug users and mentally ill.Fact:About 25% of the homeless are emotionally disturbed, but that has a lotto do with that many of them has suffered from child abuse or violence.About 25% uses drugs, but many of them are included in them who suffers frommental illness.
Myth:They don’t work.Fact:25% of the homeless work full- or part- time. The problem is that peopleearning a minimum wage doesn’t earn enough to support a family of threeor rent an apartment in the inner-city.
There’s also many of the homelesspeople who aren’t able to work and there’s many reasons why.PaperThe homeless in England has their own paper called The Big Issue. They writeabout things that might interest themselves, but also about homeless people, sothat the people buying it can read about the homeless’ situation. The homelesspeople buys the paper for 40p and sell it for 70p, but to earn more money theysay they don’t have change for a pound.In The Big Issue I bought I read about a girl who cut herself and walked in thestreets with bleeding arms.
Nobody seemed to care, she said, or maybe they wereafraid…How to help?On the internet I found a lot of ways to help the homeless, but some of thethings were not realistic…at least not in my opinion.
There was a page called”7 meaningful things you can do to help the homeless”:1.Show the homeless respect.(Talk to them or give them a smile. This helpsto break down the sense of worthlessness and isolation that a homeless personeasily gets.)2.Don’t give cash.
(“It can be used to buy drugs or alcohol, so it doesn’tsolve the problem” according to this page, but I think it’s OK to give money sothe homelesscan buy food and other necessary things.)3.Pray for them (as a non-believer, I find this useless, but for peoplebelieving I guess it helps.)4.Realize that the homeless are not all the same. (As I wrote before, Idiscovered that when I spoke to the man from Scotland.
)5.Encourage them to get help. (Like the elderly I wrote about before, whoare ashamed of going to a shelter or a soup-kitchen.)6.
Get informed! (To help the homeless and prevent yourself from being justan observer, but also to prevent all the myths.)7.Give! (You have more property than a homeless person, and a lot of ityou probably don’t need, so give for example your old toys to a homeless child.)These 7 things were just a few of all those on the net.
I also found somethingcalled “54 Ways You Can Help The Homeless”. It was, as it says, a list of thingsyou can do for the homeless, but it was a little different from the thingslisted above. Here’s a few of them:What to giveClothing.Money.
Toys.A bag of groceries.Children:Tutor homeless children.Take homeless children on a trip.
Educate your children (and yourself) about the homeless.Collect toys and games for donations.Play with children in a shelter.Other things to do:Volunteer at a shelter.
Use birthday parties to help.Employ the homeless.Authors notesAs far as I know, we don’t have anything like the English homelessness here inSweden and I’m glad we haven’t, because wherever I went in Brighton I sawhomeless people lying in the lanes or standing in the streets, begging for moneyor selling their paper.This has been an interesting work to do and I’ve learned a lot about thehomeless situation, but the most interesting thing I discovered was that manyhomeless people was that by his/her own choice and many of them can get out ofit if they struggle enough.