In 2016, my life took a different turn. I found myself homeless, but I was fortunate enough to be taken in by the council and eventually moved to Evolve. This experience opened my eyes to the challenges faced by homeless individuals and the importance of community support. Since then, I have actively sought assistance to regain my independence, interacted with support staff, and embarked on a journey towards recovery. My main achievement is waking up with a positive attitude.
The pandemic has taken a toll on the interactions among people in places like Evolve. What used to be busy breakfast clubs and gatherings have become isolated due to safety concerns. It’s time to figure out how to bring back that sense of community and belonging.
In my experience, it’s not just about the resources and services themselves but the individuals behind them. The right people can make all the difference. Mere implementation is not enough; it needs to be driven by a genuine desire to make people feel welcome, interact, and be part of a community.
One of the key issues is how vulnerable individuals, whether homeless or facing other challenges, are often used as political pawns or exploited for political gain. It’s disheartening to see people reduced to mere talking points for political campaigns. They are human beings, and they deserve respect. The government should engage with experienced support groups and prioritise the well-being of vulnerable individuals. Listen to them consistently and don’t just turn to them when there’s a crisis or a political agenda. Vulnerable people deserve to be heard, not just quoted occasionally.
Building more houses alone won’t solve the problem. Housing is just one part of the solution. It should be coupled with robust support systems that address the unique needs of individuals. We need to address the root causes and provide the necessary support structures to help these individuals get back on their feet.
Society has formed certain perceptions about homeless individuals, largely influenced by how they are portrayed in the media. Negative aspects are highlighted, and the homeless are often seen as a monolithic group, which is far from the truth. Homeless individuals often carry a stigma as if they are all drug users or have done something wrong, which is also far from the truth. It’s crucial to remember that within the homeless community, not everyone has experienced the same things, and their reasons for being homeless vary widely.
Changing these perceptions is a significant challenge, but it’s one that must be addressed. It starts at the local level, with local authorities and support organisations working together to create awareness. These campaigns should inform people about the diverse situations within the homeless community and foster empathy and understanding. The local community should be encouraged to visit and see what’s being done to help homeless individuals. It’s crucial to humanise the homeless and show that their circumstances are temporary and not indicative of their identity.
Before I experienced homelessness, I had some awareness of it, but my understanding was limited. I, like many, attributed homelessness to financial crises. But I didn’t fully comprehend how it affected individuals. I had a somewhat misguided perception of what it meant to be homeless. For example, I was aware of organisations like the YMCA, but didn’t fully grasp the challenges faced by homeless individuals. Over time, my perspective has evolved.
When I first became homeless, I stayed in an area I knew because I needed the support structure available there. The Spire Centre in Streatham was a lifeline for me, offering meals and support, as well as assistance with benefits and well-being services. They played a crucial role in connecting me with relevant support systems.
My journey is ongoing, and I hope to eventually move into a place of my own. While the future remains uncertain, one thing is clear: I won’t isolate myself indoors. I’ll continue to be interactive, engage with people, and focus on things I genuinely enjoy.