Last weekend I went to visit my boy who is studying music technology in Glasgow. I was stunned and shocked by something…..the amount of homeless people there were.
Leaving as rurally as I do, I don’t get out much. In fact, I think it is eight years since I last went to a proper city! The amount of homeless people seems to have reached epidemic proportions in that time. It is also the time frame in which the governments drive for “ Austerity, austerity, austerity” has worked its way through British society. It is clearly evident that it is those who are at the very bottom of the rung, in terms of opportunity, who suffer the very most. Every few steps in the main streets there were young, old, men women, foreign, British begging. Many had mental illness issues, some were clearly there because of drug problems and some were likely to be illegal immigrants.
Each one of these people were reduced to holding a cup for a few pennies to survive, victimised by life’s cruel harshness. People walked by and got on with their normal lives, chatting on phones, eating in coffee shops. But, for the grace of circumstance and health it could be any one of us.
Just because someone has problems does not make them less of a person.
Just because someone had some kind of trauma and ended up on drugs does not make them less of a person.
Just because someone had to flee a war torn country and ended up destitute does not make them less of a person.
Yet, people walked on by as if they were invisible.
This is shameful in a society that pro ports to be the fifth richest country in the world. Riches means nothing- like the tale of King Midas- if it does not serve a greater purpose. It is time for us to take a long serious look at ourselves and re consider what it means to be in a society.
But, what to do? I wanted to help…..but felt overwhelmed , just as I am sure most of us do.
In this instance, I decided that for the two days I was visiting, that I would help one person per day in a practical way and smile at each homeless person I saw. The first man I helped was outside Greggs, so I asked him what he would like to eat. He was so off his head on drugs that he could barely form his words. He told me “ I would love a bun, like my Granny used to buy me…..with a cherry on the top”. He got his bun with a cherry on the top- the very least I could do. This small tale shows the vulnerable man who remembered being nurtured, loved and having a treat. It showed his humanity. He responded with the most delighted smile when I gave him his bun.
So, how can we start to turn life around so these people can have more than a bun with a cherry on the top?
Firstly, we can remember our common humanity. There was a song I used to sing my children by Raffi – the children’s song writer which goes “ All I really need, is a song in my heart, food in my belly and love in my family”. When someone has no family to love them or hold them- then we, Society, need to be family, when things go wrong. And, let’s face it, every one of us has times when things fall apart- it is only the severity of that, that is different.
Modern life is complicated and austerity means the well meaning, the kind and the practical ways of helping get squeezed out. Systemic failure sets in.
I am not an mp or part of systemic solutions- I am just a person/singer songwriter. So, here are some of my probably simplistic ideas in relation to this issue. It is time for debate and educated solutions and I hope my simple ideas could be a tiny catalyst for this.
I am sure I am not alone in wishing for this epidemic to be curtailed.
Why don’t rich philanthropists get together and create a system of help that is not eroded by austerity and ineffective government? Each town could have several hotels with rehabilitation, counselling, work training opportunities and drug addiction services attached to them.
I am also sure that the wider populace would be keen to help. I reckon most people just feel overwhelmed by the enormity of this systemic failure. There could be all sorts of ways to help. Each person, if so inclined could offer their skills. As a singer song writer I would happily perform and give my time for fundraising concerts to help. Other people have other skills, people in the clothes industry could donate clothes, super markets could donate food that would otherwise go into tips. All it requires is some creative thinking.
There are so many things people could do. Each one of us is a person with skills that society can use to help it become a more sustainable caring society.
But, there needs to be those who have some financial welly and organising acumen to step in. If any philanthropists are reading this…please get thinking!!! Creative and social entrepreneurs, please also start thinking. There are amazing charities and programmes helping already but the enormity of the problem means that far more needs to be done.
Of course my ideas are idealistic and simplistic but they could be a microscopic start. If you read this, please repost.
Let’s give people more than a smile and a bun with a cherry on the top…….Let us care for one other. We are all just people who want to be happy and each one of us is unique and special.