Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Help For The Helpless

Well, Hexham has recovered from Storm Desmond....just !! at it's height the river ALMOST reached the top of the bridge, the royal mail sorting office was under 3 foot of water and 17 of their vans were thought to be a write off.   homes have been flooded, roofs lost, roads closed.    the beck at the back of my flat coped magnificently, though it was surreal to be woken in the early hours by flashing lights and loud voices.  four hazard jacketed men, waist deep in the water, wrestled with tree branches and random debris as the rain hammered down and the torrent roared.

As i snuggled back into the warmth and comfort of my duvet i offered a prayer for those who didn't have a roof to lose, or a home to flood, or a bed to retreat to...and then i remembered...

a barn, rats rustling in the dark, condensation dripping off a corrugated iron roof, prickly points of hay poking through a sleeping bag...

a camp site, cold wind, hard ground, the outside of a tent against my back...

a shop doorway, smell of pee, rain, footsteps, fear...

a beach in Cornwall, cold damp sand, the sound of waves, incoming tide lapping at feet, black velvet sky, diamond bright stars...

Oh yes...i remembered...i will never's impossible to forget.

There is a prevailing attitude that associates homelessness with alcoholism or addiction, that it's self inflicted and those losers need to "get a grip" and "pull themselves up by the boot strings", that they "brought it on themselves".    it's a way of thinking that the tabloid media mines in self righteous indignation and it stifles compassion by encouraging the lie that it could never happen to you.

None of the homeless i've known, and i've known and given a bed to quite a few over the years, chose that life of unremitting precarity.   behind every vagrant is a story of rejection, abuse, domestic violence, mental  illness, emotional vulnerability, family breakdown, bankruptcy, sudden redundancy, eviction, maybe even un-insured flooding or fire.   oh COULD happen to you.

In the musical universe of the Mamas And The Papas "the darkest hour is just before dawn".  it's also the coldest and loneliest, the time where despair can lead to suicide, or the bottom of a bottle....what came first the depression or the drinking?   the fear or the self medication?   the vulnerability or the eviction?   does it even matter?   the original cause is often buried under layers of recrimination and justification or fogged by delusion.  if long standing, untreated mental health issues are present it may never be possible to put together a coherent history, as the past may be shrouded in psychosis.

Strong winds have returned, it's going to be a wild night in Hexham again and maybe where you are too.    Do you know where the homeless in your town will sleep?   Do you know if there are hostels where a bed and a shower and a hot meal can be found?   do you know how they are funded?   where the food comes from?   who runs them?

Perhaps this winter you could show you care by helping to provide a meal or shelter over Christmas for those out in the cold.   Crises At Christmas and The Salvation Army are just two of many charities who step in when the world steps out....will you step up ???


  1. Val, it's most weird how you and I have a conversation that touches on a blog post moments before I publish it. We did it again with this one. Maybe it's not too late to make your offer?

  2. It's another of those "doo doo doo doo" moments...I might go and enquire at the sally army cafe down the road...BIG HUGS to you my psychic sister....Val xx