Tag Archives: homelessness

“If Everybody Is In”, a poem about homelessness

Crisis is a charity which does excellent work aimed at tackling homelessness in the United Kingdom. The charity’s poet in residence has written a powerful poem “If Everybody Is in”, which can be found in the video below:,

Kevin

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London

Lost in the crowd.
London’s voice loud.
The traffic screeches.
A man preachs.
His voice reachs
The birds.
Words.
A mobile phone.
People alone
Walk
And talk.
Something is bought.
A train is caught.
Newspapers russle.
A homeless man bussles
Along.
The same sad song
“I have no pay
And nowhere to stay.
Spare some change to help me today”.
People look away.
As just another day
Slowly trundles away.

Counting My Blessings

Fumbling for my keys, my fingers so numb I can hardly feel anything. The icey blast encourages me in my efforts. Found them thank god! I open the communal door to the block of flats, mount the stairs and let myself into my cosey flat.

Turning on Smooth FM, the sound of Phil Collins “Another Day In Paradise” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Another_Day_in_Paradise) greets me. Collin’s sings about a woman calling out to a man on the street. She is homeless and in a bad way. He walks on pretending not to have seen her.

Thinking back to a few minutes past it hits me just how fortunate I am. I own a warm, comfortable apartment to come home to when the cold wind causes even the most hardy among us to shiver. Others are not so fortunate. They shiver in doorways, wrapped in blankets or, sometimes with only the warmth of a fellow street dweller to help them retain some animal heat.

If I had, by some mischance forgotten my keys it would have been an uncomfortable experience. However I could have buzzed a neighbour who holds a spare set to let me in or, failing that contacted a friend. I would not have spent the night on the streets of London. It makes me count my blessings.

 

Kevin

A Liverpudlian In London

It is frequently remarked by northerners that Londoners are “cold”, “unfriendly” and “always in a rush. As a Liverpudlian born and bred, who has lived and worked in London since 1994 I can see both sides of the coin.

One of the grimmest portrayals of London is that of the poet, William Blake. His poem, London is unremitting in it’s critique of the poverty and exploitation which prevailed in the UK’s capital city at the time when Blake penned the poem.

 

“I wander thro’ each charter’d street,

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry

Every blackning Church appalls,

And the hapless Soldiers sigh

Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear

How the youthful Harlots curse

Blasts the new-born Infants tear

And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse”.

 

I have come across, admittedly in a mild form, the criminal underbelly of that great metropolis. Some 10 years ago I was walking through London’s mainline Victoria station. I am registered blind and had become lost in Victoria’s cavanous interior. A gentleman approached me and enquired whether he could be of assistance. I explained that I wanted to get to Crystal Palace to which my saviour responded that he had just returned from offering medical assistance in Bosnia, his daughter was picking him up in her car and she would be happy to offer me a lift. With a little trepidation I accepted my new found friend’s kind offer.

“I have left my luggage in the luggage lockers, can you lend me some money to retrieve it”, my saviour then said.

Dear readers I have a terrible confession to make. Despite having money in my pocket I said I had none, to which my “friend” responded that he would

“Be back in a minute”.

Readers, the moment I heard his footsteps departing, yours truly walked in the opposite direction!

The above was, almost certainly an attempt to scan me. however, not having been born yesterday I failed to fall for the seeming “kindness of strangers” trick. Such scams go on up and down the UK and in every corner of the globe. However they are more often practiced in large cities, such as London where the chances of being apprehended are remote (in a village, for example the scammer is likely to stand out like a saw thumb).

London can seem uncaring. There is a huge homeless problem in the capital. I have often walked past people sleeping in cardboard boxes on Victoria Street and in other parts of the city. On a few occasions I have given money but in most instances I have not. To the casual observer the actions of busy Londoners hurrying past rough sleepers can appear callous. However, practically speaking one can not give to every homeless person. Again giving to people begging on the street frequently (but not always) leads to one’s money going to feed a drug or alcohol habit rather than going on the purchase of food. Consequently I will readily give to registered charities such as Shelter and The Passage (the latter charity being specifically aimed at helping homeless people in and around the Victoria area). Such organisations have their accounts audited, are regulated by the Charity Commission and one can be confident one’s donation is helping those who genuinely require assistance.

I personally have experienced a good deal of kindness when traversing London. People of all nationalities have gone out of their way to assist me when lost. AgainI’ve witnessed people assisting ladys with prams to negociate the steep steps at my local station.

Londoners are, in my experience wary of falling into conversation with strangers. This perhaps flows from the number of people (real or imagined) who are out to “scam” them. On returning to Liverpool I am struck by the ready manner in which people will engage with strangers. “good morning” is, for example frequently addressed by Liverpudlians to total strangers, something which, in London rarely happens. For instance on entering the newsagents close to where my mum lives I am greeted with “hello love” despite the fact I rarely go in there due to residing in London. This puts a smile on my face and makes the day feel brighter. Doubtless some Londoners could learn from the cheery manner in which Liverpudlians greet fellow residents of that city and strangers alike.

Having been born in Liverpool the city will forever maintain a special place in my affections. However I feel at home in London. I love the vibrancy and tolerance of the city (it is a place where people of many different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds live, more or less harmoniously together). My heart is, in short split between these 2 great cities although the larger part does, I think reside in Liverpool, in the heart of Woolton Woods and Speke Hall.

 

By Command Of The Lord Chancellor

“By command of the Lord Chancellor, help the homeless”. The man stands there, in the train compartment bellowing out his command. Noone responds. “Help the homeless”, again the Scottish voice booms out on this London commuter train. Once more there is no response from the passengers on the way home to their warm apartments or, like me going to meet friends for a slap up meal, with a nice bottle of red wine in my favourite Indian restaurant.

The same journey, an earlier time.

“Ladies and gentlemen. I am sorry to disturb you but me and my friends need money to buy “The Big Issue” to sell. I wouldn’t usually ask but can anyone spare some change”. The same man, with the Scottish accent asking for money. On this (earlier) occasion there is the jingling of change as one or two commuters give money.

I am not the only person who has observed this gentleman on numerous occasions as he begs for money on the train as it wends it’s way from Victoria towards Crystal Palace. Noone believes his story about needing money for “The Big Issue”, we have seen and heard him before. However a sense of compassion has, hitherto moved some of us to give but, on this latest occasion the gentleman’s threatening manner illicits no charitable outpouring.

I wonder what this man’s story is? There but for the grace of god, chance or however one cares to frame it go you or I.

A Man Of Compassion

It really is a disgrace that in 21st century Britain people are still homeless on the streets. Believe me the conditions portrayed by Dickens are still very much with us. You don’t need me to tell you that hunger and poverty still stalk the land. Just take a stroll under the arches by Embankment and Charing cross stations and you will be confronted by the people society forgot, sleeping in cardboard boxes. There are two parallel cities in London, that inhabited by you and I with our comfortable homes and then there is cardboard city. It breaks my heart to see men and women of all ages huddled in doorways under filthy blankets. Some don’t even own a single blanket, its tragic to see them with nothing to keep themselves warm other than fellow denisons of the streets. On occasions I’ve seen two or three of the poor sods huddled together so as to extract animal warmth from their fellow man. Oh my country, oh my country I weep to see what you have become, a land in which the weak die on the cold streets while the heedless majority parties on this sinking ship.

I do what I can to help. It isn’t much, a flask of hot coffee here, a few sandwitches and most important of all a kind word. What most of the homeless want more than anything else is a sympathetic ear, someone to listen without passing judgement. I’m a good listener, always have been and I think that is why I’ve built up such close relationships with so many of the people sleeping rough.

Its tragic listening to the street people speak about their lives. Take, for example young Janet who ran away from Manchester to London at the age of 14 to get away from her father who’s idea of fatherly love was to sexually abuse her on an almost daily basis. Then there was Mark a successful trader in the city but, come the recession he lost everything and ended up residing in cardboard city.

It is difficult gaining the trust of the homeless. People who have suffered many knocks in life find it hard to fully trust another human being. However I have managed to gain the absolute trust of many a homeless man and woman. Once the relationship is solid I’ll invite them back to my home. Of course they jump at the chance. Who wouldn’t embrace the prospect of a square meal and a clean bed to sleep in.

A little something in their drink and once they are asleep my friend removes a kidney or, sometimes a lung. We are humane men so the men and women are stiched up properly afterwards and given a few hundred quid for their trouble. I’m a charitable man, it’s a crying shame that there are so many men and women sleeping on the streets and we have the cheek to call ourselves a civilised society.