Just keep walking
Keep walking fast, increase the volume when you're talking and keep looking down - do anything but acknowledge their existence.
Today I found myself in one of those scenarios that many of us find ourselves in. Beggars on the street, homeless people, the lost souls of England, the list goes on with what you could call them. I say, victims of circumstance. I am sure we can all relate to preparing our excuse for why we have no change to spare. No change is ever spare, but would it take a lot for some of us to help out once in a while?
Different social categories will respond in different ways to an ‘unappealing’ figure approaching them. Typically speaking, when men come asking for money, you empathise more.
For women, it just seems impossible. I am guilty of saying that I don't feel as much empathy for homeless women, but why?! I hate that I am a product of society, and at times, I am navigated into what I have been conditioned to think like, not what my moral compass would think. Yes, women can use their bodies for money, but the connotations that go with such a “dirty” act do not merit sympathy. As I have gotten older, I think that the sympathy vote favouring men stems from a belief that they can't cope with life's knocks quite as much as a woman can. Simply, a woman carries more (like a baby, for instance), is typically the primary carer and generally, ends up being more resistant than a father ever would be.
The attitudes towards the homeless are beyond unsettling. The way in which we judge those who have been dealt a terrible circumstance and are somehow expected to transform without any support or understanding is beyond me. I understand that we can't always use our upbringing as an “excuse”, but it all goes back to childhood when you think about it. Whether someone has been exposed to sexual violence or sexual assault, perhaps a person has been neglected or rejected? The list goes on, and those scars are there for life.
Recovery is not always a viable option for some. Those battling it out in the warzone that is our society, with their handmade forts being walked over as they wipe their tears away with the back of their hand, don’t have time to consider how their past is affecting their present - let alone their future. A hot cuppa is definitely not on the table, and the option of therapy, even less so.
When you're in survival mode, I'd imagine the last thing you’re thinking about is taking a deep emotional dive into your life and then returning to the streets after a therapy session. It doesn't quite seem right. Why can't we collectively fix this problem that we see so often? Offering therapy is almost laughable when there is not home for them. Equally, providing a home for them and not providing therapy is like putting them in a cardboard box (with heating) and expecting them to make it into a home. It's not impossible. During the first lockdown, we’ve witnessed that helping the homeless, or should we say housing the homeless, is a matter of will from our government - not finances as they would have us believe.
It isn’t just the government, however. The majority of society so easily overlooks the reality of the velocity of the situation surrounding homelessness and the people it affects. We use phrases like, “they will just spend the money on drugs or alcohol”, as a way to absolve ourselves from acknowledging the genuine plight they face. It's a script that has been passed down from generation to generation, and no one questions it.
The damage is so transparent that it's painfully traumatising to live in a world that accepts this. How can I change this? Maybe one day I will. Afterall, it was a situation that occurred this morning with a couple sleeping on the streets that I spoke to that sparked me to write this piece. I owe it to them to try, and writing this is a start as I am asking people to challenge behaviour that we all consider normal, when in actual fact, it is anything but.