So I just got dinner for 2 homeless men today… and I’m going to tell you about it – and no, it’s not a tale about how amazing and kind and good willed they are, nor is it how they’re full on flat alcoholics…
So let’s begin.
I came out of the office late around 10pm, and this guy came up to me and asked if I could spare then a few pennies so they could get some food. I was going to Tesco anyway so I told them to come along and I’ll get them something.
There were 2 guys; one was very quiet and reserved, whilst the other was quite talkative – his breath smelt of alcohol… That probably explains it.
Anyway, I talked to them on the way to Tesco and asked how they got in their position – the talkative one explained how 8 years ago he had enough of his relationship issues, along with a ‘slight’ drinking problem, and decided to get on a train out of Essex into London. He found out he couldn’t get a place to stay in London as he is a resident of Essex. When I asked him why he didn’t move back he said it brought back bad memories – fair enough, but if you’re homeless surely a house is better than nothing? Meh, lets carry on.
As I was getting food the talkative one stressed to get food for the other guy – this guy he didn’t smoke or drink. He told me he’d rather have alcohol or cigarettes than food – obviously I told him I wasn’t going to do that, but it made me sad so so deep inside…
When I was buying the food, the quiet came up to me to make sure I wasn’t buying too much – he seemed quite ashamed of his position and the fact he was where he is now and was therefore really conservative and quiet.
I bought both guys a sandwich, and the quiet guy a drink. They were both extremely thankful. Somehow the talkative guy ended up with a small bottle of wine in his hand, so I ended up asking him why he still drinks and smokes, as personally I really struggle to try and help homeless guys out when I know a proportion probably going to be spent on alcohol and drugs.
His response was probably the most depressing yet heart warming thing that I’ve ever heard… This is what he said:
“Well, I just am an alcoholic, but if you don’t mind I’m going to walk across the street and give this sandwich to that homeless man across the road who hasn’t eaten in days.”
I didn’t really know what to say to that, and I simply wished them all the best and parted ways.
I learnt 3 lessons from this:
1) Some people don’t want to be helped.
The alcoholic knew if he stopped drinking he’d probably have a higher chance of progressing in life, and if he really wanted to get things back on track he would have moved back to Essex where he has a higher chance of gaining accommodation – he didn’t. Instead he has remained a homeless alcoholic for 8 years, and he seemed like he has become okay with being in that position: he said a doctor told him he has 3 months to live, and without alcohol 2 – obviously it’s probably not true, but I won’t be surprised if that is the last time I’ll ever see him again.
2) Not every homeless person caused themselves to be homeless.
Not everyone has a safety plan – the worst case scenario for me is that I cry back to mummy and daddy. Some people have nothing.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear the story of the other homeless guy, but I imagine it was more to do with a series of unfortunate events rather than a decision – those are the sort of people we should be helping; it’s just a shame that at face value it is hard to tell who’s going to use your help for good or bad.
3) Homeless people are still people
Speaking to these two men again made me realise that being homeless does not define you; you define you – let me explain:
There are alcoholics who live in houses, and humble people too. You have doctors who’s life is in pieces yet they still care so deeply for others. There are dicks who will manipulate you, and others who are respectful and kind.
A variety of personalities exist at all different levels in life, so please do not judge people at face value.
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