Not Just Homeless at Christmas but Homeless All Year Round

I was only homeless for a very short period of my life during my mid-twenties. I ended up on the streets of London, but luckily found my way into an alcohol rehabilitation facility called ARP (Alcohol Recovery Project). I will always be grateful for the help that was given me, and know that I’m among the lucky ones. Even though I now live in Thailand, and have a great life these days, I will never forget where I came from – and those who helped me at that time.


(Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

Homeless at Christmas

I never experienced homelessness at Christmas. I would imagine that begging is more profitable at this time of year but you also have to avoid freezing to death. Of course, there are many charities that open their doors to the homeless at Christmas; they do their best to make life a bit easier for the less fortunate.

As well as spending time on the streets I also volunteered for a while in a homeless shelter called St Martin’s-in-the-fields. My time as a guest in different treatment facilities also meant meeting plenty of people who had survived without a roof over their heads. My view of how society treats the homeless at Christmas changed as a result of this. Instead of just seeing how nice it was that folks made the effort to provide shelter to people at this time of year I saw a more complex picture. I began to realise how cruel it was to treat them nice for a day and then chuck them out once the festivities were over. I heard stories about how the sudden assault of free food could make homeless people sick. I also talked to guys who were bitter with do-gooders for leaving free sandwiches on top of their sleeping bodies; they would wake up to find dogs or rats nibbling at their ear.

Homeless All Year Round

I think it is good that people think about the homeless at Christmas; it would be better if they thought about them all year round. There also seems to be little attempt to see things from the homeless person’s point of view; this is a problem and leads to a huge waste of resources. I saw people who were awarded council flats only to end up back on the streets within months. It isn’t just the lack of accommodation that is the problem, but it is that some people just can’t cope with the responsibility of paying bills and managing a home. This is not because they are bad people, it is more to do with the fact that they just can’t cope. For some people even filling out a form is torture, and paying bills regularly is almost impossible.

Even though most cities in the west have homeless shelters many of the homeless prefer to stay on the streets. The simple reason for this is that is can be safer. There can be a lot of bullying and intimidation as well as petty crime in the shelters. Alcoholics and drug users have a particular problem finding accommodation because most shelters won’t allow them in if they are high or drunk.

If people really want to help the homeless at Christmas then they should make an effort to find out why they are there. Many of these people have addiction or mental health problems. Care in the community has turned out to be ignoring people on the streets. A lot of homeless folk have been through traumatic events that would be considered the stuff of nightmares for the rest of society. Just giving these people shelter might keep them alive over Christmas, but what about the rest of the year? Does it have to be a certain day for people to take care of other humans?

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6 thoughts on “Not Just Homeless at Christmas but Homeless All Year Round

  1. Hey Paul

    I know I don’t comment as much as I’d like but I read most of your blogs and I have to say that I’m enjoying them more and more. I think the narration of your more troubling experiences really gives me solace. I empathise a lot with who you were and I enjoy the way you present things. In contrast I thought some of the blogs about you and your family going around Thailand, while informative, were not that gripping.

    Keep it going my friend
    John Aka The Sober Paddy

  2. Paul,

    As a person whose never faced such a misfortune as this and hope I never will. Surely being somewhere warm and clean would be preferable to eking it out on the cold wet streets. When vulnerable people are housed there should be some sort of after care social worker looking after them until they got themselves properly organized or something.

    However, I hate to admit it that the current Tory government(not coalition, libsdems are turncioat puppets for cameron) that’s in power now we might well see more homeless people on the streets again.
    Mark recently posted..Finding true love in the bars of Pattaya the road to ruin

    1. Hi Mark, what you say makes a lot of sense. The problem with a lot of the shelters (or spikes) is that they can be really dangerous places – sometimes it’s safer on the streets. You are 100% right about the aftercare, but I doubt they are going to get it. I think you learn a lot about a society by how they look after their homeless.

  3. Paul another good thoughtful post and a topical one with Santa now mucking out the reindeer shed.

    There was an interesting article in The Nation online last week about the Thai government’s planned crackdown on its country’s homeless many of whom are mentally ill.

    Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested… http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2010/12/11/national/Action-on-street-people-planned-30144197.html
    Martyn recently posted..Thailand Discovers K-Pop Link To Dengue Fever

    1. Thanks Martyn, I’ll have a look at that article. The homeless are usually the most vulnerable in any society . Governments don’t give a toss because the homeless don’t tend to vote and their views aren’t considered important enough that they can influence.

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