On the 10th October 2016 people around the world will mark World Homeless Day in many varied ways and try to change the lives of homeless people in their local community. Since its founding in 2010, World Homeless Day has been observed on every continent except Antarctica, in several dozen countries. The purpose of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to homeless people’s needs locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness, while taking advantage of the stage an ‘international day’ provides.
Since 1985, I have been committed to helping the homeless and from time to time I have worked for charities and campaigned for further efforts to assist the homeless in our own country and overseas. I was for two years the full time UK Campaign Organiser for the United Nation 1987 International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Since then, I have done voluntary work for and supported other homeless charities. In 2007 I began helping out at the HUB in Dorchester, a day centre for rough sleepers and the homeless, and remained there for a few years. More recently I have been involved in ‘ICare’: an initiative to meet and help homeless people on the streets in Dorchester.
Homelessness is a problem that is not going away. It urgently needs to be addressed at every level – international, governmental, regional and local. We cannot ignore it. We need more housing, more temporary accommodation, more overnight shelters and we need to change people’s perception of homelessness. It is NOT a lifestyle choice, but a miserable condition that is usually (but not always) inflicted on the unfortunate person by circumstances beyond their control (eg war), or loss of job, breakup of family, ill health, psychological problems, or poverty, poor decisions and lack of advice.
The situation is NOT hopeless but it needs to be addressed. Charities and organisations working and campaigning on behalf of homeless people throughout the world need to be supported. Huge funds are required from corporate and governmental sources, but small individual donations from large numbers of people can make a real difference. You don’t need to do what Richard Gere did in 2015 – see below – but you can stop and talk to homeless people that you see on the streets. I always do this, realising they often need a chat and a recognition that they exist, far more than they need sandwiches. Don’t walk by on the other side! Homelessness should be everyone’s concern.