The United Kingdom has long been known to be a nation of animal lovers. Our acts of human kindness toward animals is incredible! We go to great lengths to help animals who are endangered, injured or homeless. Yet can the same be said when it comes to our homeless human population?
When it comes to animals, we do not judge them, ridicule them nor turn a blind eye to their pain. We are ready to step in and do what needs to be done. Yet the same cannot be said for our homeless population. Far too often we make judgments and have our own opinions about them, which are widely inaccurate; based on our own fears and prejudices.
So, in this blog, I want to share my own experience and insight with our homeless community. By the way, if you’re thinking that this doesn’t relate to your area or your community, then think again. With the rise in rough sleepers for the seventh consecutive year in the UK, there is no doubt that wherever you live, there will be a proportion of your community who are homeless: whether it be sofa surfing, temporary accommodation or one of the growing numbers of rough sleepers.
At the end of last month, I had the privilege of meeting some of the members of Swindon Homeless Volunteers, and through them, met one of the many people they support. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but an avid reader of The Game of Thrones and a talented artist was not one of them. This member of the homeless community has grown to become their friend and is polite, respectful and living in a noisy, fumed-filled, bitterly-cold car park. It is clear to me that two additional factors help this friend gain some sense of wellbeing in present circumstance: creativity and kindness.
With the increasing news coverage being given to homelessness in the UK, we are all becoming familiar with the growing issues faced by our homeless community such as: access to basic human needs of housing, food and clean water; the need for social interaction and connection. Yet there is also another element that can have a huge impact on someone who is homeless: the opportunity to participate in a creative activity.
One of the most debilitating aspects of homelessness lies in a lack of creative stimulation. The human mind has around 60,000 thoughts a day. Most of them are exactly the same thoughts that just keep repeating themselves like a well-known song. This has a huge impact on how well we feel in ourselves – our thoughts influence our feelings. So if you are homeless and lost in your thoughts of feeling worthless, of little value and lost, then this will only increase your feeling of pain and suffering. But something happens to these thoughts when you undertake a creative activity. It creates a meditative state, which takes you away from your repetitive thoughts as your mind becomes engrossed in the creative activity, consequently giving you a brief respite from those feelings.
It is clear when I met this friend of Swindon Homeless Volunteers, that reading and drawing supports them, massively. In addition to this is their continued capacity for kindness in the midst of their own challenges. I was really touched to hear about how they have recently befriended a family of pigeons – despite having very little to give, this has not stopped them from sharing the food they have with these birds.
What is even more touching is that Swindon Homeless Volunteers have donated birdseed so that everyone is provided for. In fact, it is clear that members of the homeless community mean a lot to the volunteers and have become more than a faceless, homeless person in desperate need of human kindness; they have become friends.
It seems that our reputation of being a nation of animal lovers rings true. It is also clear that we have the capacity to expand this brief and share our kindness toward animals with our homeless, human community.
If you would like to know more about Swindon Homeless Volunteers then go to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SwindonHomelessVolunteers/
If you would like to donate to Swindon Homeless Volunteers, then go to their Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/swindon-homeless-volunteers-march-2018