‘Not everyone who becomes homeless is entitled to be housed.’
I am just going to let that above quote sit with you for a moment…
Do people really think that some homeless people deserve to be housed over others? I understand that the government’s priority would be to house homeless families, children and pregnant women before helping others… but to say that some homeless people are simply not entitled to be housed is disgusting (in my opinion).
I want to highlight homelessness and mental health today, as today is in fact both Homelessness Day and Mental Health Day. These are both very important and sensitive topics to discuss, but that gives us more of a reason to talk about them!
The UK government says that if a person has deliberately done or failed to do something that has caused them to become homeless they will not be aided in being housed… Now I definitely do not agree with this statement. I mean, surely no one deliberately does something so that they become homeless? No one chooses to be homeless unless it is a better option than living in their current environment! For example, if a person is experiencing a traumatic time at home (maybe they are going through domestic violence, or are being abused), they may choose to live on the streets to get away from what they perceive as being a dangerous situation. It would take a lot for a person to see the streets as being a better and safer option for them, than living in a house. Therefore, I believe that these people definitely deserve help and guidance, just as much as others. People fail to realise that homelessness can happen to anyone at any time for various reasons. A lot of people look at the homeless in a negative way, as if they are ‘scum’ and that they deserve to be on the streets, despite knowing nothing about the life of those individuals.
Homeless may occur for many different reasons, such as relationship breakdowns, unemployment, poor mental health, alcohol/drug addiction, abuse, domestic violence or redundancy. These are all things that could happen to anyone. It is easy to sit in your nice warm, cosy house and think ‘that will never happen to me’… but the truth is, you never know what is going to happen. Approximately 300,000 people in the UK alone are homeless. These figures are shocking.
Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people… however, people who are homeless are 9 times more likely to be affected. A lot of homeless individuals do not receive help for their mental health problems, this could be for a range of different reasons; they may feel embarrassed, they may not know where to go for help, they may be scared of being judged for being homeless, they may feel as though no one cares because they are homeless… this is the impression that our government gives to homeless people. They are made to feel as though they are a problem, when they as individuals are not the issue, homelessness is the problem, not having enough affordable houses is the issue, low wages are the issue, poor mental health services are the issue… and the list could go on.
In the UK, levels of homelessness have increased significantly over the last couple of years when it should be doing the opposite. Our government needs to tackle homelessness by looking at the various causes and doing something about them where possible. Making housing more affordable, increasing wages, supporting people with mental health problems and financial issues, working on the benefits system to make it more practical, not sanctioning people for silly reasons and so on and so forth.
A charity known as Centrepoint help people who are going through various issues such as:
- Emotional and physical abuse
- Violence and sexual violence
- Substance misuse
- Mental health problems
- Physical health conditions
- Sleep problems
- Housing problems
A lot of these issues overlap with one another and people need help and support in order to overcome their problems and become capable individuals again. It is important that people experiencing such problems know where they can go in order to receive that all-important support.
We need more food banks and homeless shelters as well as soup kitchens and community centres. I have spoken with people who have had experiences with being homeless and many of them said they felt safer on the streets than they did in shelters… this means that we should be doing more to make homeless shelters safe places for individuals to sleep, rest and shelter from harsh weathers. No ‘shelter’ should be seen as dangerous or scary… they should be seen as safe havens, a place where people can turn to for help and support. Maybe they should have more security, private rooms, trained staff/management, police presence?
The message here, is that homeless people are still human beings, they are no different to you or to me, they deserve support, guidance and care. They should not be seen as problems, they should not be seen as being unimportant, they should only be seen as human.