Got any spare change?

Refections from a week on the Streets

I am not suggested that you build up a relationship with everyone that you see on the streets, or purchase a big issue every time you walk past a big issue seller (I mean how many copies of one mag can you read in one week?) navigating the homeless that we see and sometimes dodge on the streets can  be hard to handle morally and emotionally.

Random tents popping up on street corners, makeshift homes having to walk past someone asleep or passed out in a corner that smells of urine and is strewn with waste. Walking past the same people, watching their physical health deteriorate daily before your eyes, secretly wondering to what their story is, Why they are there? Are they scammers? Are they genuinely homeless? Are they druggies begging for money for their next fix? 

Then there is the genuine fear of having to say no to someone, a stranger who will approach you for money, that you simply haven’t got, who will walk away in disgusted and annoyed that you haven’t parted with any money! Leaving you feeling either sad, helpless or even outraged that you have been left feeling that you could have or should have done more?

Its not a pretty sight, but it is a sight that is becoming more and more visible in our towns, cities, its even spreading into the local communities, only the other day someone one on a quiet estate, in the south of the city approached my mother in law, whilst she was gardening asking for a quid for bus fare. 

“There is deprivation all around us, there always has been, its just that its more visible now, meaning that this vulnerability that we would prefer to ignore to get on with our daily lives is there right in front of us and we can no longer pretend that it doesn’t exist!”

And for many people, they simply do not know What to do? What to say? What to think? What to believe? Who to blame? And I get it? A seasoned drugs worker, a ex addict myself with years worth of experience working with the vulnerable, even I despair and feel helpless at times. The times that support has been offered accepted but then individual doesn’t arrive. The buzz you get some seeing someone making positive changes to the downers from the broken promises, the lies that we are spoon fed from those on the streets, by the ones we know have accommodation but continue to ask for money for a room for the night! The ones who will try and convince you that your money will not be spent on drugs, who accept the sandwich, but will throw it away later when you have gone, or save it to pass on to someone else who might want it. 

Sometimes it feels like all the negativity will never end and that it will only get worse, but what people don’t often see are the ones, the ones you haven’t seen for a while, they are not in their same spot, the ones you wonder “are they still alive?” There are so many people who have been able, with the support of many of the charities, some more than others who have been able to navigate their way off the streets, who now work or volunteer in the services giving back the same compassion and care that someone else extended to them when they were on the streets or entrenched in addiction. 

There are hundreds of people who have reclaimed their lives, by learning to understand the addictive streak that lived within them, learning to tame it, so that they can function in this place we call life, in a reality and society that they can cope with, in a society plagued by stigma and expectations about “Knowing the difference between right and wrong” or what is socially acceptable. 

And that’s why we cannot stop offering compassion, for those of us who see past all the shit, the failures the disappointments but continue to offer compassion either a friendly word, a smile to the person on the street. We have to recognise and understand that they will only do it when THEY are ready. Not when WE want them ready, so in the meantime all WE/YOU can do is show some compassion, being able to look beyond the dirt, the bags that contains anything of value around with them on their backs.

You will never know when that person will smile back at you a say “YES, IM READY! ”

Because when that happens it makes what we do all worth the while. 

2 thoughts on “Got any spare change?

  1. Bless you and all the people working to help the vulnerable it must feel like a thankless task often
    But you keep on trying

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *