If you’d bear with me…

… I want to ask a favour of each of you.

2015-12-29 21.47.48

The volunteers after the last shift

I love London, a sprawling mismatch of a city with everything good and bad about it that you will find anywhere people, lots of people, live cheek by jowl.

And, as with every city, in amongst its citizens are those who fall through the cracks.

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we have elections for the London Mayor this May so each candidate will be bombarded by Crisis and we volunteers with these pictures. Here we have the Conservative candidate, Mr Goldsmith…

For several years now I’ve volunteered at Christmas to work for a UK homeless charity called Crisis. Set up in 1967 with a view to ending the shame of homelessness it still runs. Indeed it is, and the need for it is, bigger than ever.

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… and the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan

It functions throughout the year but is best known for providing a range of help and services over the Christmas period at centres  (often based in Academy schools that have closed for the holidays) around London (and increasingly around the country).

Over the course of the week that straddles Christmas we provide three meals a day, doctors, dentists, opticians, chiropodists, hair salons, massage, wellness, yoga and pilates as well as a clothing bank, advice on housing, jobs, legal and benefit issues as well as entertainment. There are art, music and IT facilities, befrienders and showers and a sports hall providing table tennis, indoor soccer and basketball. All run by volunteers. 

Here are some stats I’ve just been sent. This year at Crisis at Christmas around the country:

 

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Some of the thank you posts the guests leave us…

Each day we had about 200 guests and the atmosphere is truly special (if sometimes a  little fraught given the situation a number of guests are currently experiencing).

There are many reasons why the guests find themselves in the situations they do: relationship breakdown, leaving home, ex Forces or prison, mental health issues, tenancies ending, financial problems. They are every race, colour, creed, religion, sex, personality, age and, given this is London, nationality. There is no common thread beyond their desperate situation.

Well, one other and this is where you come in.

They are all human. They crave respect. Recognition if you will. Most people see the homeless when they beg; when the sit in an alcove or by a shop or underpass. A lot of people don’t know what to do.  Give money and fear it will go on booze or drugs? Feel threatened? Offer food or clothes to have it rejected and being left feeling embarrassed?

All of which reactions are understandable and, of course, whether you give food or money or clothes is up to you. But whatever else you do, please PLEASE acknowledge them. Smile, look, best of all speak to them. If there is one piece of feedback we receive regularly it is that the Christmas event treats them like they were part of a community – the family of humans. That’s what they want at the most basic, most visceral level. If you saw someone fall over and hurt themselves you’d go to that person and ask if you can help. You’d engage with them, showing sympathy. Empathise.

It’s no different to the homeless. That you don’t or can’t give them anything is really a side issue. But please, if you make a resolution this first of January, let one of them be ‘I will speak to someone who is homeless and show them some respect, some love’. It won’t always lead to a smile back. You may be ignored or possibly, though it hasn’t happened to me the many times I’ve done it, shouted at. But when someone thanks you, looks genuinely touched, believe me when I say it will warm the cockles of your heart.

If you want to do more then perhaps consider this project

http://www.rucksackproject.org/

Or a variation suggested by a volunteer: she posed the question – how many women amongst the volunteers had a handbag they hadn’t used for two years? And how many sachets of shampoo or samples of soaps and spare cotton buds, tampons etc. do you have tucked away in a cupboard? Well make up a handbag and when you see a homeless woman offer it to them. Believe me, they will be truly grateful. Small things count for a lot.

Thank you.

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a good memory…

Do have a truly epic 2016 and know this: you can and will be a better person if you begin by being a better person to yourself.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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65 Responses to If you’d bear with me…

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Geoff Le Pard with his New Year message and request.. Geoff volunteers for Crisis every Christmas and reports on just some of the facilities that are provided for the homeless at this time of year.. Please read the full post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lucciagray says:

    Great reminder and fabulous ideas, Geoff. I always make sure the clothes I no longer use or need are given to those who may make better use of them than sitting in my wardrobe. We also collect and redistribute food and books at my school. There are many generous people helping others in need. There’s always a way to help depending on your time and means. Thanks for the reminder. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
    Taking this on board – will support. Thanks Geoff – a great post

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sherri says:

    Thanks for this Geoff. Happy New Year to you, see you soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ritu says:

    Reblogged this on But I Smile Anyway… and commented:
    What a great charitabke idea to start the new year with!

    Like

  6. You had me at “I want to ask a favour of each of you.” Because you are a caring person, Geoff. I figured it would be something like this. Done. I do this throughout the year but will make an extra effort. Also love the purse idea. It’s brilliant, really. And I’ll also look at the link you provided. Happy New Year. 🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Erica Herd says:

    Keep up the good work, Geoff, and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Judy Martin says:

    What a wonderful thing ‘Crisis’ does, I love the handbag idea too. Thanks so much for sharing this Geoff, and also for the fabulous work you and the other volunteers do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rachel M says:

    What a great charity. My kids never fail to observe the homeless people and get cross with me if I ignore them. It’s good I’ve got kids to keep me in line 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. zdunno03 says:

    I reblogged this and posted it on Facebook, too. Good work, Geoff.

    Like

  11. Pingback: If you’d bear with me… | Leonard Durso

  12. A good homeless song goes well with this post. One of the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Helen Jones says:

    A great post and a worthy cause, Geoff. I’m on board, definitely – I also love the idea about the handbag and will sort something out.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fabulous post Geoff – even though I would wish you didn’t need to write it. I think you just inspired me to get out into my community and see how I can give to the homeless here. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. merrildsmith says:

    A good reminder. Thank you, and wishing you a very happy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. willowdot21 says:

    Well done Geff, a great job done!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. jan says:

    We have a huge homeless problem in San Francisco. I volunteer at a soup kitchen and every day we go to lunch in the city I order extra food and give it to people on the street. It’s heartbreaking but all of experts say not to give out money.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. brilliant – and the problem of homelessness is world wide. Spreading the word

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Charli Mills says:

    Geoff, you have a heart of pure gold. Thank you for encouraging us to join you in acknowledging the humanity and dignity of those who are homeless. I’m stunned at what a robust outreach London has at Christmas — so many things like yoga, healthcare and help with being employable. In the US, outreach is temporary shelter, food and clothes. In Sandpoint, there is no shelter for women. I had asked the organization I did volunteer work for how I could get my guest room listed as a temporary stay for a woman in need but the red tape is ridiculous. Back to the compassion. If we each followed your directive, better yet your example, we can and do make a difference. Thank you for being such a good steward of your community! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Charli. I’m privileged to do it, in truth and I live in hope that we can at least dent it but I doubt we will. Still nothing ventured… Happy New Year to you too, Charli.

      Like

  20. Thank you for a much needed reminder….

    Liked by 1 person

  21. davidprosser says:

    What a nice man you are Geoff. Your request is no trouble at all. I see homelessness on the Streets of Chester and even in our small town of Holywell sometimes.Acknowledging them and perhaps buying a cuppa or a meal is such a small thing to do.
    Happy New Year to you.
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This got me thinking Geoff, I admire you so much for helping out the homeless community in this way, it takes a very special bloke and you are that bloke. Happy New Year 2016. 🙂

    Like

  23. We do gave lots of donations to various charity shops, but I had no idea what to do with the hundreds of samples and freebies of shampoo, conditioner and shower gels we have. Now I know what to do with then Geoff. Thanks for the advice and thank you for doing what you do for the charity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • roweeee says:

      Geoff, thank you so much for sharing this encouraging post and broadening the ways that we can give, not just to the homeless but people going through rough times and who call at the local thrift of charity shop.
      I thought I would expand the scope to include people living with severe chronic illness and disability who live with family or their spouse so aren’t technically homeless but have no income or pension and are dependent on the benevolence of their family and or partner,
      In Australia, if your partner earns over about $50K a year, you are ineligible for a Disability Pension. If you have kids, you might gain some kind of income through parenting payments but otherwise you are 100% financially dependent like a child.
      This has been my predicament for the last 2 years since I had chemo and have been unable to work. I am lucky because my husband is fairly traditional and the kids have benefitted from the extra time with me and after the first 6 or so months after chemo, I was okay to look after them My parents help us out. In some ways this is a very hard situation for an independent feminist who sold cakes door-to-door at school making extra money and working all through uni part-time. Sure, Dad supported me through uni but I still did my bit.
      Strangely, this doesn’t bother me as much as you’d think. I’ve been that unwell or scatterbrained from the chemo that I’ve more or less gone with the flow and I’m seeing how the new school year pans out and looking at returning to part-time work.
      I have thought about going out there and standing on a street corner raising awareness of the difficulties of living with disability/chronic health because I hear very little.
      Getting back to the homeless, I don’t think many people thHess. I have also wondered why people don’t have friends or family they can stay with but it seems some have burned bridges for whatever reason. That’s what I probably find hardest. They have no one to turn to.
      By the way, Geoff, I did smile at the photo of your name badge. As you know my husband’s name is Geoff. His name badge could honestly read “Every Day Crisis, Geoff!” Our son leaves for Jamboree in he morning. He managed to lose all three Jamboree shirts, his scarf, hat and woggle. He had no memory whatsoever about where he’d put them and we searched every nook and cranny in the house and totally turned his room upside down. Finally, we bit the bullet and called the Scout Leader. Were they at the hall? An anxious wait and the three shirts turned up. No woggle. No scarf or hat. After tearing more of the house apart, he found them filed in his daypack. He was told to pack himself with supervision. He had a packing list. I don’t know what got into him but he couldn’t follow the packing list and he was ticking things off which weren’t even in the pile and was going to take 2 pairs of undies for 12 days. Well…
      As you would know, running on time at Jamboree is critical or you get left behind. In our last minute whirlwind state of chaos, I realised he didn’t have a watch. Thank you Kmart. Thank you Geoff for retrieving two good collared shirts (albeit from the op shop) from the bag. We have been advised that burning your clothes is a ritual on return from Jamboree. Deep breath! He is now ready to go and like that duck paddling along the water, all but his leaders and Mum and Dad, won’t realise just how hard the support crew has worked beneath the surface. That’s the way we like it too.
      Oh yes, Geoff is also good at computer crises and fixed my laptop cable after all of that.
      On a more fun note, I enjoyed watching “Can’t Stop the Music” after the midnight Fireworks last night. I found out that it’s been playing at 1.am 1st NYD for 30 years. That makes it an Australian tradition. My Geoff was very puzzled by that!
      Have a Happy New Year and I will get a few of these handbags going. While I might be lacking in cash, I am overflowing in kind.
      xx Rowena

      Like

    • TanGental says:

      That’s marvellous Hugh. Every bit helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Sacha Black says:

    Beautiful piece. So touching at this time of year too a very pertinent reminder. Also love that you volunteer, something that when the boy is older, I want to do as a family. Now isn’t really appropriate but when he’s a few years older it will become part of our family tradition.

    I’ve also heard of the handbag thing too, something I will do.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Annecdotist says:

    Yay, good for you speaking up for the silent, Geoff – and you look great in those shots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Rounded out nicely this Christmas! It’s had a good response. Also I thought I’d mention that this year, instead of useless stuff we’ve twinned our families’ toilets http://www.toilettwinning.org which I expect is something after your heart! Everyone has loved the certificates it seems. Your posts on world toilet day prompted the thought.

      Like

  26. Pingback: If we were having Coffee : First one of the year! | willowdot21

  27. Lisa Reiter says:

    I’m late, as usual but thankful you posted this. The homeless thing is bothering me a lot as are a number of other things we all glance uncomfortably at and then walk on by. Thank you for drawing attention to Crisis with this beautiful piece. #MustDoMore
    Lisa xx

    Liked by 1 person

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