A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Thursday, 11 September 2014

On Poverty & Homelessness

This no doubt sounds like a pretty ominous post title, but it's something that's been on my mind over the past few days so I wanted to write about it a little. On Friday night when me and Mum were walking around Exeter's town centre, there were quite a few people who were homeless and begging for money. One guy looked especially desperate and I knew to walk past without giving him anything would feel like an incredibly selfish and unkind thing to do. So, although I know there are many reasons why you shouldn't give people on the streets money because they're likely to just spend it on alcohol/drugs, all the shops were shut and I gave him a few pounds.

In the UK we are, on the whole, an incredibly lucky, safe and prosperous country. So, to me, it's never made sense why we see people on the streets, with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Now that may be incredibly naive of me, but I always used to wonder how they got there. Of course, the most probable answer to that is that, somewhere along the way, probably involving alcohol and/or drugs, they lost everything.

I know that there's recently been a recession and that the cost of living is constantly increasing which can make things difficult for thousands of families and people, but I guess I've just always thought that there are jobs out there for those that really go out and seek them. But my Mum pointed out to me that once people are in that state, they find it hugely difficult to set themselves goals and think about anything that isn't getting them drugs.

My Mum's a psychotherapist, she works in a private hospital with a great addictions unit and so every day she sees people that have ended up in this kind of situation. The terrible thing is, and the thing that makes me feel horrible, is that this kind of treatment isn't available to the masses. As far as I know (and please do correct me if I'm wrong), treatment on the NHS is limited and involves very short periods in which patients are expected to go cold turkey. In most cases, this just isn't feasible. The majority of addicts don't want help, they can't see past a life without drugs, so the idea that they would be able to go entirely without them in such a short period of time seems ridiculous to me.

All I really know is that, walking past that man, my heart broke a little bit. I am a sensitive thing but I truly couldn't stand seeing it, especially in a country where I just don't think it should have to happen. So I really want to do what I can and I'm going to commit to cooking for a homeless drop-in at a local church as often as I can. It's not much, but at the moment, it's the biggest help I can give. Let's just hope that some day there aren't people on the streets and a high standard of treatment is widely available.

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