I am naturally a very opinionated person and could talk all day if I had an audience. I love nothing better than a passionate discussion about topics that matter.
But when I started Rama, my friends told me to not express my political views because “that’s not what people want to hear”. This felt like good advice at the time but I have been fooling myself.
The unseasonably warm weather has left London and the last few days have been freezing. I recently had a meeting in Knightsbridge (a very wealthy part of west London) and the person I met with told me that many blocks of flats in the area were completely empty, and had been for months (sometimes years).
A massive feeling of unfairness struck me and was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even talk, which never happens to me. All that was running through my mind was: people are freezing to death outside whilst these luxurious flats are empty.
It is so easy to get caught up with our daily dramas that we forget how fortunate we are to have somewhere warm to sleep each night. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. One of my main goals when setting up my businesses was to help those less fortunate but I have been only helping myself lately.
So, what can we do? Here are my top three ideas to help the homeless in London:
1. Pressure your Council or Member of Parliament
Call, call and call. Why do we just accept homelessness? Shouldn’t we be ashamed for allowing a system whereby some people are left vulnerable and without shelter? Things can change but only if we make them change.
Remember: our Council or MPs work for us, we elected them to work on our behalf. Society is only a reflection of its people. If enough of us say: “WE SHOULDN’T LET HUMAN BEINGS FREEZE TO DEATH IN THE STREET” then they must listen or act or they won’t be around after the next election. Only our inaction will allow the status quo to prevail.
Here is a website to find your local Councillor https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-councillors and here is advice on how to contact your MP https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/ - call them and ask them what are they doing about homelessness in your area.
2. See the human
Even if all you can offer is a smile to someone sleeping rough, you are giving them back some humanity and making them feel a little less invisible. No matter how small or ridiculous that sound I know it will make a difference. Don’t underestimate your actions.
I have never bought into the reasoning that someone is homeless because they are lazy. I am bloody lazy too so if we follow that logic then I should be on the streets too. People fall into the homelessness trap mainly because they lack the support network to see them through the hard times.
I was lucky enough (and it was luck) to grow up with everything I needed and more. I never had to worry about food, clothing or housing. I could focus on getting an education because I didn’t have to think about where my next meal was coming from.
I felt like I struggled when I moved to London but it was a walk in the park compared to being homeless. I knew if things went awry I was one phone call away from my parents helping me.
So please let’s forget the stupid narrative that homeless people are in the street because they made poor choices. Man, if I listed the poor choices I have made in my life you would be reading this until 2050. Homeless people are just like me or you who are experiencing an extremely difficult life.
3. Support a charity
There are so many amazing organisations working to end homelessness but they desperately need our help, especially in the winter. It doesn’t have to be monetary support, it could be your time or donating some household items. Here are a few charities working in the UK that you should consider:
The Salvation Army https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/
The Big Issue Foundation https://www.bigissue.org.uk/
St Mungo’s https://www.mungos.org/
Homeless Link https://www.homeless.org.uk/
Streetlink offers a very important service. If you are concerned about someone you have seen sleeping rough you can contact Streetlink. They will send someone to ensure the person sleeping rough is connected up with the services, accommodation and support available in their local area.
I am not here to be patronising, I have as much to do as anyone else. I just felt my heart bursting about this issue so I had to write something. If someone reading this smiles at someone sleeping rough or realises that buying them a tea would not only warm them up but would also warm their soul then this article was worth it.