Food for Thought This Halloween
Remember that red sun on Monday 16th October?
It was quite a strange experience looking up at a red sun in the middle of the day. It wasn’t the only strange happening on that day. As part of my training course I had to be an old person or a homeless person for the afternoon. The reason for this was to explore what it’s like to be on the other side of this normal.
My character was Eodith, a 60 something woman who had lost everything in her 40’s and now lived in a van somewhere. As I walked off the bus (there were 21 of us on the training course) Eodith developed a severe limp and had to lean heavily on her walking stick. This made walking extremely difficult and quite exhausting. She lived most of her time in the woods, and hence had a very muddy skirt and coat, sticks caught on her scarf and muddy welly boots.
I loved that the young children didn’t notice anything odd about Eodith, they just accepted that she was another person. The teenagers called me names and taunted me – nothing extra ordinary about that. The women who looked at me started at the bottom of my skirt where it was muddiest and then up to my eyes, where I saw disdain. There was just pity in men’s eyes.
It took a lot of courage to walk through the pristine shopping mall. Outside I managed to stagger to a bench in the sun and rested my poor old limbs. All of a sudden a girl came rushing over dragging a huge bag along the floor and a small suitcase on wheels. She had vomit all over her bags and down her top. As she sat next to me she said ‘ah the sun’ and we started a conversation.
Homeless and family less
Her name is Ella (I have changed it slightly to keep her dignity) she is 18 years old. An orphan but doesn’t get on with her adopted parents. Ella said that she had mental health issues. This is her second time homeless and the night before she had spent in hospital as she had tried to kill herself but had vomited the tablets up. Ella pulled some perfume out of her bag and said ‘you got to have a little sweetness when you are homeless’ and offered me some. She said that on a good day she could beg £20, but hadn’t managed to that day as she was mostly in hospital. She offered me something to eat, which of course I declined feeling very sheepish. I asked her about help for the homeless and she said that it took time and money. It cost £185 and there was a long waiting list. What she really wanted to do was to get a room and a job and sort herself out. As Eodith all I could do was to hand her some acorns and say ‘acorns grow into really big strong trees, is that something that you could do?’ Ella promised me that she would stay strong and she said ‘I always keep my promises’ – my heart broke into pieces. Where were her family? Where were her friends?
The cold wind blew and she shivered, and I offered to look after her bags whilst she went to Sally Army to get a coat or blankets (she had nothing). Ella declined, but dragged all her stuff with her into Poundland to get some crisps. Whilst she was away, a homeless gentleman cycled over and sat next to me. I had lost one of my gloves and Ray gave me a pair and said that I could cut the fingertips off them. Ray lives in a tent, but someone had ‘broken’ in the day before, urinated on his duvet and taken his things. Ella came back over, I felt really happy to see her again. She gave Ray some crisps – the homeless seem to have a code of ethics all of their own. Ray commented on my skin being ‘shiny’ – I think he had sussed Eodith out.
They both helped me up onto my feet, where Eodith tottered a little. There were no questions asked about where I was going, maybe when you are homeless you just come and go whenever you like.
How can we support our young adults?
Councils and Charities are doing good things for homeless people, but it’s not enough. 18 years old on the streets with mental health issues is unbelievable in the year 2017.
I would love to hear from you, your experiences of this and suggestions as to how we can support our young adults in the UK?