This is a reflection of an experience I’ve had tonight:
So tonight, Sunday 4th of January, I get a Facebook message from a friend at the University of Worcester asking if I could help her confront her anxieties. She walked past a homeless person earlier on and she wanted to give him a blanket and pillow – because it’s the first time she had seen him and didn’t want to let him get cold.
For me, this message was on the back of the awareness campaign I have been doing. It’s amazing for me to see that people are reacting to the Campaign and doing something helpful, because that’s what I want. But what I didn’t want was the feelings that came with this pride.
I was all up for going out and meeting her before we went and talked to this homeless person, but when I got there I saw him and my heart sank a little.
I lent down and he jumped, I put my hand on his leg and said ‘I’m here to help, not harm you’… He seemed startled and I was getting over my own anxieties about talking to a rough sleeper who I had never seen before (working in the hostels in a place, you get to know the characters). My friend watched as I did this, as I didn’t want her to be put in an awkward position. As I talked to him I felt this immense feeling of emotion, emotion I can’t describe exactly… It was like guilt, shame, despair.
The reason? Because there is still something that effects me when I see a rough sleeper. I’m guilty to an extent of walking past them and not paying them attention, and that is mainly because of self-pride. But I know that I slept rough, and I needed warmth. But what did he want? It was wrong to assume in a way that he needed a blanket and pillow – but there was a bit of common sense that kicked in, especially as it is quite cold outside.
As we continued talking, the feelings changed, they grew stronger then they went, then they came back etc. I don’t know why, I don’t know how but I knew that this conversation gave not only myself and my friend comfort but also for him, dignity and respect.
It was fascinating talking and listening to him, and I found myself really engaged in his story which he couldn’t wait to get out. This was really amazing and reminded me of when people ask about my homeless experiences. Not because I am self-centered, but because sharing something like this (as proven by this very event), hits home to people and makes them think about things.
My friend didn’t quite know what to do about the whole situation, and a big part of me didn’t, because I never had this interaction the night I slept in the cashpoint lobby.
There is a sense of loneliness when sleeping that night on the pavement. You lose your voice. I saw this tonight… There were a few people who walked past and they did nothing, didn’t even look even – some looked and awkwardly smiled, others looked and didn’t care at all.
All of this reconfirmed to me what and why I was doing this, we need to get better at dealing with the problem but we also need help each other. The fact my friend asked me to support her was amazing and why I went out and met her, even though I was in bed and ready for sleep. Not because it was me, it was for her.
This Campaign challenges me in a way that I need to reflect upon a lot more: ‘What do I do to help?’. Yes I talk about it, write about it and tell people – but what more can I do to help the people I’m giving a voice too also comes into question.
I’m writing this reflection because the feelings were overpowering an made me think about the whole Campaign. Actually there is a huge element that I need to become less uptight because of my past. I need to let myself go and do what needs to happen so they have another night of survival.
I hope my friend will share her feelings about tonight’s experience with me at some point because I want to know what it was like for her. I have a different take on all of this due to my past experience, she has a fresh view on this.
I hope this Campaign doesn’t just help one person, but many and I dream that we can all make a little difference every day of our lives to better the society we live in, and the people who fall short of the privilege we have.
Lying in bed and writing this, I know that I will be going to sleep not feeling immensely proud of tonight, but instead feeling the same heavy feelings I felt when I bent down and introduced myself…
Those feelings drive me to keep on helping and supporting people, be them the homeless or general public like yourself. I don’t take pleasure from giving a blanket to someone, because they’re still in that position. Whether they want to be or not, they are still there.
We made a true impact on someone tonight. That’s a step in the right direction. It makes a big impact on someone who has so little, sleeping in a doorway of a supermarket in the centre of Worcester, but we all felt the impact in some way or another.
I’m sleeping tonight not with a smile, but a determination that this Campaign is working and will continue to work for as long as you and I drive it. Thank you for supporting me, the Campaign and giving a voice to people who automatically lose it when they are forced onto the streets.
Happy New Year. Goodnight x