They are not dreaming of a white Christmas Latifa Alkhanjary
"Homeless": not only is this virtually a taboo topic but it's also one widely misunderstood and stigmatised. The problem only occurs to us when we walk past a homeless person in the street; you may feel uncomfortable or sympathetic. Or, when the adverts with the sad music are shown on TV, and a hushed silence ensues for a minute or two. But the fact is: for most of us, when they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind.
They’re not our problem, right? In fact, anyone can become homeless at some point in their life. Not just drug addicts or alcoholics as the stereotype suggests. This issue also affects many young people, families (where the main earner has become unemployed), and refugees, who are already in a vulnerable situation. In fact, one article claims ‘9,000 children will wake up homeless in the east of England on Christmas Day’. Another article declares families living in B&Bs has also ‘trebled’ causing trauma induced‘problems with [their] speech, anxiety and distress’ in children. So is it really still not our problem?
As Rev. Mandy Brown at the Holy Trinity Church (Bishop’s Stortford) says: ‘the rough sleepers known to us have complex and disorganised lives’ thus, it is often a long chain of problems that leads them to homelessness. She plans to open a Winter Night Shelter in December providing ‘simple hospitality’ and, of course safety and understanding. Local initiatives like this prove ‘people care’, although this clearly doesn’t fully solve the problem. Indeed, Rev. Mandy Brown is assured there is certainly a ‘need for the scheme’ by volunteers that work with rough sleepers. Above all, there is a high demand for volunteers to work at shelters that support the homeless, and financial support is always appreciated.
What can you do for the homeless this Christmas? Although giving cash to the homeless or even a cup of coffee is cherished, it’s the long term solutions that will ultimately be life changing. Being proactive in your approach by, for example, giving a homeless person a leaflet about an organisation that will understand their situation will give them the option to seek long-term help. Young homeless people (both men and women) are particular targets for harassment, abuse, and assault, so making the decision to help them could elevate them out of a dangerous situation.
On a wider scale, charities like Shelter UK can help children all over the country, but only with your help. You can simply donate by clicking the links below, assured you’ve given hope to the homeless this Christmas.