|This is what you see.|
The real homeless are invisible.
The word “homeless” conjures up an image in everyone’s mind – and it is probably the same vision for everyone.
You’re thinking right now of a dishevelled, unshaven man, slightly the worse for drink, sitting against a wall with a paper cup for loose change.
Well, if you were to take a closer look, you would realise how wrong you are. The different types of people affected by homelessness would astound you. Certainly, alcohol plays a part, as a cause – but there are just as many who turn to alcohol, and drugs, once they find themselves in such a position.
If you were to spend a few hours in any homeless charity location, for example, KCAH (Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness) or the YMCA in Surbiton, I bet you wouldn’t even be able to tell who has and who hasn’t got a permanent home.
There are families or part-families. There is also a growing problem with homeless youths. There are sober, clean, middle-aged men, a surprising number ex armed forces. There are elderly. There are couch-surfers, often in their teens and 20s, who flit from one friend to another. And there are people of all ages with mental health issues.
I see these varied kinds of people as a volunteer at the YMCA in Surbiton.
Government funding to social and welfare projects across the country has been cut and Kingston has had its share of lost funding.
Ultimately, you can’t actually “deal” with homelessness – it is the symptom, not the cause. But charities providing help will continue to fight this battle until the causes are eradicated.