As you’re reading this blog you’re probably sitting somewhere reasonably comfortable, sheltered from the dodgy British weather, either at work or at home. We take it so much for granted, that roof over our heads, but what if a change in circumstances led to you or I becoming homeless?
It’s the kind of thing that could happen to anybody. A sudden job loss, escalating debt, the need to escape from domestic abuse, a change in physical or mental health – any one of us could fall prey to the kind of chance that brings people down and out.
Walking through parts of Manchester at night is like walking through a festival gone wrong. There are small villages of tents, and people of all ages huddled in blankets or sleeping bags on the pavements. Too many to buy the Big Issue off. Too many to give a handful of change to.
It’s a sobering thought, as the rain keeps coming down and the nights drop below freezing.
Of course, it isn’t just the fact that these people have no food or shelter. It becomes incredibly difficult to service even the most basic human needs – all those other things we take for granted, like having a warm shower, clean clothes, and access to a toilet. Imagine trying to deal with having a period if you are on the streets, or even just a bad cold?
In this age of ‘austerity’, the problem is accelerating; the number of people known to be sleeping rough rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 2,744 in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of official homeless applications made in 2015 was 29,050, with a massive 68,560 households living in temporary accommodation, up from 49,680 in 2010.
You might be thinking right now, yes this is terrible, but what can I do about it? Well, quite a lot actually. You can support any number of homeless charities, including the construction industry’s own charity – CRASH: www.crash.org.uk.
You can also help by flagging up rough sleepers to Street Link, who can then make contact and help them to find shelter: www.streetlink.org.uk.
You could use the power of social media to lobby for more empty buildings to be turned into accommodation, or simply show support by spreading the word.
Last but definitely not least, you could look at any homeless people you meet with different eyes. Give them a smile, treat them like you would any fellow human being who has been dealt a tough hand.
After all, there, but for the grace of god, go you or I.