Friday, 17 July 2015


You're a person. We can see this by looking at you

You laugh out loud at things very easily. We know this because we can hear you

You have what some people might describe as a 'sunny disposition'. We know this because of the above comment

You have young children and you love them. We know this because you told us

You live in a house of which you are proud. We know this because you told us

You smile at people when they walk into the room and you listen to people when they talk to you. We can all see you doing this

People like you and think you're nice

Which is why what you said is such a shame

Do you remember what you said? It was this:

How can someone who says they're homeless be so fussy about where they live? I mean, if you're going to say you're homeless, how can you be that much of a priority if you're going to turn your nose up at places because you're a bit scared of a few of the neighbours? I'm not being funny, but you can't say you want to be a priority and then be so fussy about what you get offered

Shall we take a few breaths and a few steps back, Janet? (you're name's not Janet but that's not important). Shall we think about the house you live in and how proud of it you are? About how important it is to you to have a lovely home? A place to flourish and feel safe and to bring up your children? Do you think that you're the only one who feels like that? But we know what's coming now, don't we Janet? We know what you're going to say: 

I deserve that house; I worked hard for it. You don't get something for nothing and beggars can't be choosers.

Do you know why people become homeless Janet? Have you thought about it before? Given that you work in a local authority's housing department, you probably have thought about it, haven't you? So you probably know that these are the reasons why people become homeless:













Let's think about what would happen if you became homeless, Janet. Because, we all know that it could happen to anyone. Let's think about how it might happen to you. Maybe you'll lose your job one day. It happens to the best of us, after all. Maybe, as a result of losing your job, you'd started to feel a bit blue. This would be totes fair enough. Maybe, in order to stop feeling blue, you'd start to drink a bit more than you should. Easily done. Maybe, after a few months, your drinking would be a bit out of control and you'd start to sort of give up on stuff. Depressing, but understandable. Maybe, because of this, you'd stop looking for another job and stop going to the job centre to sign on so your benefits would cease and you'd lose your home. Oh dear. Maybe, because of your drinking, your friends and family would turn their backs on you a bit and you wouldn't have anywhere to stay. Homeless! Simple!

What would you do next, do you think? Try to get some help from the council? Probs. And because you have children, you'd probably be in priority need. So then what would happen? You'd start to bid on properties in the areas you want to live in. But there aren't very many, are there? And the ones that are available are   p  r  e  t  t  y     s  h  i  t  t  y. But, you know, beggars can't be choosers, can they, Janet? So, you plod on. And there is this one flat that comes up on the Home Choice website that you know you should bid for. But you can't quite bring yourself to say that you want to live there. Because it's scary. You're scared. 

It's on the top floor of a high rise block on the outskirts of the city. Right next to the motorway. There's no carpet; just concrete floors throughout. The sound proofing is really bad and there's a couple next door who are at each other's throats all day and a guy on the other side who hears voices and who tries to drown them out by having his TV on full blast all night. It's also an area that's notorious for gang crime. It's miles away from your children's school and from your doctor and you've been needing to get to the doctor more and more recently. You had to sell your car, so getting to places is going to be a struggle and you don't like the idea of walking around outside on your own. You start to worry. You worry about your children. You worry about the future. 

And you can't stop thinking about the lovely house you used to live in. About how you had it just the way you wanted it. About how warm and cosy it was in the winter and about how light and airy it was in the summer. About how your children used to love running around in the garden all happy and safe. About how they could walk to and from school without finding syringes on the pavement and how the only sound you could hear from your bedroom at night was the tinkle of wind chimes in the garden next door.

It's not easy is it, Janet?

It's not easy at all.


Shall we go back to that thing you said?

Who were you talking about when you made that comment, do you think? What kind of image did you have in your head as to who that homeless person was? Somebody a bit scruffy and smelly and lazy who just can't be bothered to help themselves and who is being a bit of a pain in the arse because they think that the system owes them? Or, someone who maybe isn't that different from you? Someone who, for one or two reasons out of thousands of reasons, is without a home. A person who wants what we all want, really; security, safety, a sense of calm, to not feel threatened or intimidated, a window to stare out of, a chair to sit on, a bed to hold their partner in, a bath to wash their children in. That kind of thing.

The person you were talking about may have been exactly like you once, Janet. But, actually, the chances are they weren't.

The chances are, they weren't anywhere near as lucky.

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