A-Z Blogging Challenge-Theme: Homelessness
Back in 2010 when the Conservatives and Liberals came to power to form the unholy coalition government sweeping changes were made to the welfare system, which have adversely affected many lives.
Firstly let me just say some of the changes I agreed with I don’t think that living on benefits should be a lifestyle, it should always be a safety net in times of need and until such time you can get back on your feet.
However with the changes made homelessness has increased year on year since 2010 and is rising alarmingly.
When like myself your caught up in that system, you basically gamble with your life, and being a single woman and homeless my chances dwindle with every roll of the dice.
Women are vulnerable with 12% sleeping rough on the London streets, even in the town I live there are many women sleeping rough in shop doorways, and as most women it appears unless they have kids or are pregnant, few qualify for homeless status.
As I have done when you go to your local council, your time there is short the last time I went I was at the desk a total of 10 minutes that’s how long it took to decide that they couldn’t help me, at the very least they’re supposed to discuss your options and give you information as to where you might be able to get that, many don’t, and this is why many women don’t use or follow-up any resources that might be available to them.
Reasearch from CRISIS has shown that women tend to keep their status hidden, especially if sleeping rough, they are more likely to find secret places in which to sleep, because they are vulnerable to physical attacks and sexual assaults, and because they are invisible these event mostly go unreported.
Research has also shown that women will go back to violent relationships or turn to prostitution as a way of having a roof over their heads, this is also true of many young people who are also sleeping rough.
There is also a direct link with homelessness/mental health/alcohol/drug misuse amongst the homeless, I see it in the town where I live as you have “professional beggars” who I’ve seen getting into taxi’s after a day’s begging (taking from people who have less than nothing) also drug dealers dressing up as homeless to peddle their poison on the streets, again young people are the most vulnerable of this group, in many cases being forced to steal to feed their habits.
The public sees this and many don’t actually see the vicious cycle that many homeless people find themselves in, they are seen as the great unwashed, stumbling around our town centers, and they think why should I show compassion and give them my hard-earned money(there is of course the element of those who just live on the streets and don’t want to be homes, the local community support officers bear this out).
As the welfare state is being slowly dismantled more and more families will find themselves in this position, and when out on the streets there is literally nowhere to go, and more and more rely on charities to help them, but they are also subject to local government funding and each year they get less and their resources diminish so fewer in turn get any assistance, hence why they have to follow the same criteria as the local councils.
My situation is the same but I come under the hidden homeless category, as I have mostly manged to sofa surf and flat sit, which ends on Friday, and I have a possible new sofa on offer which I’ll have to check out tomorrow, I’ll probably take it because I have no choice, and it’s just for a couple of weeks.
Whilst I wait to be helped or move up the list, I’m constantly mindful that wherever I’m staying the people can change they’re minds between when I leave in the morning and return that night, I did have somewhere and was happy there no problems (that I was aware of) and whilst out they packed up all my stuff put it in a taxi and sent my belongings to my place of work, can you imagine, I then had to give an explanation as to why, luckily they were Ok, and have allowed me to store my stuff for as long as need be, but nevertheless, the faced was broken, and I could see the disbelief in their faces as I explained.
I’m grateful to all that have helped me and try to reciprocate in different ways, but that can become a double-edged sword, because the secondary reasons is you’re doing it in the hope that they will let you stay longer, it can be uncomfortable for both parties.
I’m luckier than most I’ve only slept out once, and basically just walked around all night, it took me a very long time to even articulate that night to a friends and even now just writing about it makes me feel physically ill, and makes me determined that will never happen again.
As that woman said to me a few weeks ago “you don’t look as thou your homeless” well in these tough economic times homelessness has a different face.