Picture the scene in Manchester, one wet November evening. I am walking down Station Approach towards Piccadilly Gardens and, with mounting dismay, I start counting. There are seven homeless people sitting on that short stretch of chilly pavement alone. Seven. Men and women. All ages. It is heartbreaking, and it is frightening how swiftly the numbers have risen even in the last few months. Clearly ‘The Big Issue’ simply cannot deal with an issue this big.
I try to make eye contact with them and smile regretfully while shaking my head at the pleas for help. There are too many for a pocket full of change to give any relief, but at least I can acknowledge that they are there, that they are human.
As I return I see that there is an organised group dishing out hot food and asking for donations. I gladly give that pocketful of change, now that I don’t have to make the impossible choice of who needs it most.
It could be you
The problem of homelessness in our cities has reached a level I have never seen before. I find it shameful that in our relatively rich and stable society this situation exists, that we continue to turn a blind eye. That people in the UK are stripped of literally everything, including their dignity, as they are forced to beg to stay alive. It is getting worse, and the only official reaction to date has been the ludicrous remit to criminalise homeless people and fine them up to £1000 for sleeping rough.
Austerity, lack of housing, unemployment, abuse, mental health issues or simply bad luck. There could be any number of reasons why these people have ended up on the streets. Circumstances that could easily happen to one of our friends, a family member, or even ourselves. We would hope to get a helping hand, surely they deserve no less, and it needs to be the right kind of help to get them out of the gutter again.
A pocketful of change handed out to individuals won’t go very far. It could even be used in ways that worsen the daily dangers that they face. But a pocketful of change that goes towards an organisation working on behalf of these people – that can help. Multiply it many times and it could make a real difference.
The SGPR team decided to take positive action. Our second series of extraordinary events is designed to raise funds and awareness for two organisations that are helping homeless people to get back on their feet: CRASH and The Wellspring
So far we have run, hiked and bartered, been splattered with colour, nursed blisters and lugged boxes. Next week it’s the turn of the ‘Potterthon’ – a Harry Potter themed 24 hour static bike ride. We will be streaming the event live, so be sure to check in and show your support.
It’s time to stop turning a blind eye, and take some action. We’ll make it easy for you – just hand over a pocketful of change.
Here are links to the Just Giving pages for each charity. It doesn’t matter which one you choose to donate to. It would be great if you felt moved to support both. Just know that every penny you give will help to make somebody’s life a bit better. (Don’t forget to add gift aid if you can – it doesn’t cost you anything extra and it’s worth a lot to those you’re giving to)