Definitely you

When you think it can’t get any colder… it does.

Looking at the stars was once for lovers.  Now they bring the invisible cold that only night can create.  Who is it, freezing on the streets?  

Could it be you?

Wake up, hungry to the pit of your stomach.  Not eaten properly in weeks.  Not eaten at all for two days.  Who is it?

Could it be you?

Too frightened to steal, to proud to beg.  Who could it be?

Can’t remember when you last felt warm, loved and safe… could it be you?

When the people in your life have melted away, when people pass you in the street, avoiding your eyes… could it be you?

Aching to go back but can’t find a way.  Could it be you?

Not the easiest person, not a bad person, not a person anymore.  Invisible.  Could it be you?

One in three families are one pay-check away from losing their home.  Single?  Couldn’t happen to you? 

Linda is homeless.  Her landlord wanted the flat back.  The same week she was made redundant.  Temporary work paid for a hotel.  The temporary work dried up, her belongings were stolen.  She ended up in a hostel.  Library during the day, reworking her CV.  Doing the rounds of the agencies.  Finally; assaulted, depression… gave up.  Now, the streets.  Could it be you?

You have family and friends… could it be you?

Joblessness and divorce, a toxic combinational that leads many men to the streets.  Ninety percent of the homeless are over 25yrs and 12% are women.

Booze, betting, drugs.  They play a part but everyone existing on the freezing street, last night, probably started out being like you.  Happenstance, life’s chances.  Could it be you?

No, of course not… are you sure?

People aren’t born on the streets.  They end up there.  The bit in the middle is the bit that unravels.  Who knows why.  Does it matter?

Last year over 4,000 people slept out-side.  Sixteen percent up on last year.  London had the most.  After Westminister, 260 cases, the highest incidences of rough sleeping were recorded in Brighton and Hove (144), Cornwall (99), Manchester (78), Luton (76), Bristol (74), Croydon (68), Redbridge (60), Bedford (59) and Birmingham (55).

A lot of people are suspicious of the numbers.  They are notoriously hard to collect.  Probably, there are thousands bundled in doorways, bin shelters and if they are not moved on, parks and stations.

Rough sleeping fell in the years up to 2010, now it’s risen every year since.  They are expecting 600 at Euston Station on Christmas Day.

No one wants to lay in a doorway.  They want to get back on their feet.  Healthcare and access to it is a step in the right direction.  It’s often said, to register with a GP you need a fixed address address and ID and immigration status palaver.  Not true.

Read the Patient Registration, Standard Operating principles for Primary Medical Care.  The Healthy London Partnership Team are giving it a big push.  What’s happening where you are?

On the soulless streets, shivering, with cold, is bad enough.  On the streets trembling with illness, something else.

So, next time you see a figure, bundled up against the cold, sitting on the pavement with only a square of cardboard to insulate them, stop wondering why they are there.  Should they have a job, are they lazy, mentally ill, waster, good for nothing?

The answer won’t matter until you can answer it from your own life’s experience and you don’t want that.  Anyway, you don’t think it could be you… do you.

Reasons, explanations, stories… they don’t matter.  Fixing it is more important.  Loneliness, depression, hunger, cold, dark thoughts, dreading the arrival of the stars.  The same stars that, tonight, will be looking at you.

We can’t fix it all but now we know… we can fix access to healthcare.  Someone has to check practices have got hold of the right end of the stick and CCGs have allowed the right funding. Someone has to tell the men and women in the doorways.  

Someone… that’s definitely you.


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