Homelessness sparks debate. Already in my modest-lengthed life I’ve been involved in a number of heated discussions about the issue.
But last Friday I took part in an event which was to change my views on it forever, making me much more certain of my stance on it. I slept rough in London for charity.
I was undercover at least, in Spitalfields market. But I was in a sleeping bag, there was no heating, and the only thing between me and the pavement for an entire November night was a very thin piece of cardboard.
It was an uncomfortable experience to say the least. I gritted my teeth and got on with it though, knowing that within only a few hours I’d be able to go home and get into a nice warm bed.
When I woke up just after 6am I was cold, I ached all over and I just generally felt very tired and stale. At that moment, whilst most the people around me were still asleep and it was eerily quiet, I suddenly wondered what it would feel like if options were not open to me at that point in time.
I wondered how I would be feeling if my only option for the day was to gather up my sleeping bag and bit of cardboard and head out onto the street to beg for money. What if I couldn’t go home and have a shower? What if I couldn’t go and brush my teeth? What if there was no food for me waiting in my fridge? What if I knew I would be sleeping rough again that night?
Anyone who is living a life in which those ‘what ifs’ are their daily reality is not in that position out of choice. A home is something most of us take for granted, and to be without one on a constant basis must be utterly miserable and one of the least care-free existences anyone can fathom.
There are no lengths we shouldn’t be going to as a society to put an end to homelessness. Since Friday I’ve already made a promise to myself that I will do all I personally can to help alleviate the situation in some way. Whether that is by donating money to a charity, becoming a trustee or volunteering in a soup kitchen I am not yet sure.
One thing I am sure of though is that there is no easy solution to a problem like homelessness, but that everything must be done to find one. It’s something that homeless people themselves have very little, if any power, to change. It’s therefore up to the rest of us to help pull them back out of that constant struggle.
By Sophie Hudson