It’s Freshers again, the beginning of the higher education academic year. I will, of course, partake in the spending of the final dregs of my bank account after a summer of (expensive) fun, but it seemed liked an ideal opportunity to also makes some promises to my self about my final year at University. So, over the next 9 months I’m going to ace my degree, learn German and Spanish, complete my piano diploma, and eradicate homelessness in the UK. Whilst these goals are maybe slightly out of reach in one year, in the words of Lao Tzu, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.
I’ll admit that before moving to Leeds a few years ago I had lived a fairly sheltered life. I don’t think I was ignorant, but it wasn’t until I lived in a city that I was exposed to the reality of homelessness in the UK. The way I felt having to walk past people living on the streets everyday make me feel so horribly uncomfortable. Even worse than this was how quickly it took me to get used to walking past these people, and acting like there wasn’t even anyone there. I felt embarrassed and ashamed of walking past someone with so little, when I was surrounded by a city so clearly full of wealth. But this is part of the issue in the UK; we are so scared of admitting the problems in our society that we would rather not deal with them at all.
Unfortunately, the painful truth is that whilst the worldwide gaps in equality are actually closing (WS More or Less, 2017), homelessness in the UK has been steadily rising in recent years, and is likely to increase further due to housing shortages and ongoing government reforms to housing benefits. Using government figures Crisis estimated that there are now double the amount of people sleeping rough in London than there was in 2010, a frightening statistic.
Whilst I would love to be able to jump on a plane to South America and defend the amazon from deforestation, or to the Artic to shield the melting ice caps from the sun, I just don’t have the resources to solve those problems. With issues like homelessness on the other hand, it is much simpler to make a real, physical difference, which is why I decided to get involved with Homed.
Homelessness has no singular cause, but arises from plethora of issues that culminate in someone having to live on the streets, without so many things that many of us would consider everyday essentials. The breadth of contributing factors make it a difficult issue to solve, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
We don’t need to solve everything all in one go though; it’s a good enough to begin by giving a little money to a good cause, or a little time to a worthy activity. I would not presume to say you change someone’s life by providing them with a hot meal or bed for the night, but actually the difference you make by treating someone as a real human being, and talking to them as an equal- not a case study- is quantifiable. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
'No act of kindness is too small'
Each day I have woken up over the past few months, it isn’t long before I am harshly reminded of the realities of the world’s current political climate. It seems to me that now, even more so than ever before, it is essential that we do as much as we can to promote equality and be kind to our fellow human beings. It’s too easy to become immune to the condition of others. We shouldn’t be scared to treat everyone equally, even if it seems like the world is treating everyone differently. As we plough our way through the first weeks of term, I resolve to be proactive and make a positive impact on my own community, even if I only help one person a week. If we all manage that, we can surely overcome any problem in our society… and we’ll be one step closer to creating a kinder new world.