Homeless for a cause

Last night, I found myself sleeping on the cold streets of Edinburgh in the howling winds and forbidding temperatures. It was miserable weather for being outdoors at all – let alone for sleeping in. But still, I chose to do it.

Yes, I chose to sleep rough in the cold. It was a silly thing to do but at least it was a choice. Sadly, there are thousands of people throughout Scotland and the UK who didn’t choose to sleep rough last night, but circumstances meant that they had to. In fact, there are thousands of people sleeping rough most nights.

The people I’m talking about are the nation’s homeless people. And they’re the reason I braved the streets last night as part of Bethany Christian Trust’s Big Sleepout charity fundraiser. I spent one night away from the warmth of my own comfortable bed to raise funds, and awareness, in aid of our vulnerable homeless population.

[Note: I was joined by my friend, Susan, and a large group of other fundraisers. We were in a safe location with security, in-door plumbing, hot beverages, and the use of warming rooms if needed/wanted. So, it was “Homeless Light”, really.]

There seems to be a perception that homeless people are on the streets because they’ve chosen drugs or alcohol over work, or that they’re anti-social and incapable of finding and keeping a job. And, yes, some homeless people are homeless for those reasons.

But some people are homeless because they lost their jobs due to no fault of their own. Some are homeless because of domestic violence issues. Some are homeless because they suffer from mental health issues. And most of them are homeless because they don’t have a choice.

Sadly, I can’t fix this problem. I can’t wave a magic wand and make homelessness go away any more than I can wave a magic wand to end world hunger or domestic abuse. I wish I could, but I can’t.

So, what can I do? Well, I can try to raise a bit of money for homeless organisations (It’s not too late to donate!) but I can also try to raise a bit of awareness about homeless issues. After all, the more we know the more power we have to encourage change.

It was a humbling experience and I am glad to have had it. Certainly, it wasn’t truly authentic because I slept knowing that I was safe and knowing that I had a warm bed waiting for me when it was over. I wasn’t worried about someone spitting on me, or kicking me, as I lay there. I wasn’t worried about where my next meal was coming from. I wasn’t worried about being robbed in the middle of the night. But I was given the smallest glimpse of what life is like for those who must brave the streets every night.

It was also a heartbreaking experience because it made me realised just how hard those who face life on the street have it. And it made me understand some of the little things that I’d never considered before. It also made me realise just how difficult your entire life can be because of homelessness.

Obviously, my own insights are very limited, but I hope that this entire experience will help me to have that little bit more compassion for others. And I hope that my experience (and talking about my experience!) will help someone else to think about homeless issues, and maybe make a difference in the world.

And when you’re walking down the road and there’s someone hunkered down in a doorway trying to stay warm – it won’t hurt you to acknowledge them. Say hello and offer them a smile, or buy them a cup of tea if you have the time and money. They’ll appreciate it, even if they’re too cold to say thank you.

4 Replies to “Homeless for a cause”

  1. Oh dear Frances,

    After going through the motions of contributing toward this worthy cause, I have decided to donate, in your name, toward a homeless organization here in the United States.

    My heart sinks each time I pass a homeless person; and believe me, I see many. It really saddens me to see homeless older women, Grandmother types. “Where” are their families during their life harship?

    What an experience it must have been to sleep out on the street last night Frances. Personally, I would not do this; although, I have enjoyed serving the homeless, including children, Thanksgiving dinner. This is a wonderful experience for a family to participate in. Children need to be exposed to some of what life is all about today.

    I did go as far as assisting a homeless woman get into a shelter in Seattle. It did take time and persistence; although, she was accepted.

    With that, I am going to seek out this darling homeless Grandmother; and, see what I can do for her……in your name. I will keep you posted!

    How wonderful it is to make people aware, to open eyes with regard to the many homeless individuals throughout our world. “Thank-YOU” Frances for sharing your experience and making me even more appreciatiave of what I do have in life.

    God’s blessings to you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Frances. I have always known you to be a kind and loving soul, and am not at all surprised that you would help others. I think that making a donation to help your local homeless population is a wonderful thing to do, and I am certain it will be greatly appreciated.

      Coming from such a rural community (as you know) I never was exposed to issues of homelessness growing up. I’m sure there were people in town without a home of their own, but it seemed that folks would take in their family and friends when they needed it. The most upsetting thing to me about living in urban areas is seeing homeless people and people begging for money. It breaks my heart because, as I said, I come from a place where we take care of our neighbours in a very direct manner.

      But each of us can make a difference by helping just one person.

      May God bless you, my friend!

  2. Frances, there was homelessness in Washington. In fact, one of my best friends was homeless for a while in high school. You’d never know it though. Her parents lived by the river between Cle Elum and South Cle Elum. There was a whole community back there. It was sad. But at least no one bothered them and they could build a fire. Most of them were able to borrow campers though but they were usually too small for the whole family to sleep comfortably. If it wasn’t for the fact that my landlord couldn’t find anyone else to move into our home, we would have been homeless too. We couldn’t pay our rent. I think he got attached to me when I was young and couldn’t kick us out because of that. (He did refuse to fix our heat source so we didn’t have heat a lot of the time). As soon as I left home, he did end up kicking my family out. My family spread out among their friends and my youngest sisters eventually went to live with their dad. I never would have left had I known that would happen. Anyway, I really admire you for doing this.

    1. Yeah, I do remember that there were some folks living in campers/tents back there. I’m sure there are even more people living in the woods that we don’t know about. It breaks my heart to know that there are so many people who are homeless or under-housed that we don’t even know about.

      I really do wish that I could fix the homeless problems in the world, but I know I can’t. I can, however, make sure I do my bit to help where I can. Thanks for your support!

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