The Reason for the Season

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I’m not a religious or especially spiritual man. So the meaning of Christmas or the winter solstice celebrations might, you’d perhaps think, be lost on me.

But it has becoming an increasingly important time of year for me.

I think most people know I love being a Londoner. I am beyond fortunate in so many ways but simply to be able to live in a city where I’m pretty safe, allowed to do my thing without interruption, eat and sleep in reasonable peace and share it with so many others who enrich my life is what I’d consider a blessing.

However I am only too well aware that my fortune is not universally enjoyed. As with most large cities (and indeed the smaller metropolis and townships) the problems of and associated with homelessness are a constant.

Every year for the last several years I have worked as a volunteer at one of the centres run by the British charity, Crisis. For a week over the Christmas holiday, six day centres, one woman’s only centre and a specialist rough sleepers centre are run by Crisis providing much needed food and care to those who are homeless or without any permanent base. This service is staffed by volunteers and in our centre there are between 180 and 240 visitors daily who receive three meals, access to health and dental care, podiatrists and massage, IT support and a clothing store plus entertainment. A series of people versed in benefits and housing are also on hand to give advice throughout.

It is both enjoyable to take part, even when shivering on some outside duty, and fulfilling. We see old faces, friendly or fierce, grateful or grudging, who turn up year on year. And then we see new faces, tired, dirt grained people whose lives have turned upside down in what feels like an instant. Listen to them and you realise how easy it is, in a large and anonymous city, to fall through the cracks…

Cracks. Hmm, that’s the thing. They’ve becoming chasms. As a society we have overspent ourselves. We still pump money into primary care, increasing NHS budgets. But social care has shrunk. The elderly, those with mental health issues, the vulnerable are all at greater risk as a result. And from those groups, those who end up homeless, have a tiny voice.

So please think about those you see in doorways, or pushing a cart. It seems, so often, you can do little. But you know what they enjoy most about coming to our centres? It’s respect. They are treated as equals, part of a functioning society, not judged. They join in conversations, as we do without thinking, and are not blanked or ignored. It’s the same on the street. Say hello. Wish them well. Chat if you have time. It really does make a difference.

And should you wish to donate, please click here..

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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30 Responses to The Reason for the Season

  1. Ritu says:

    Thought provoking as always His Geoffleship. I remember your similar post from last year too. It has become so easy to forget… wallowing in our own misery, to think of those who truly are less fortunate than us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Living where I do, next door to the biggest covered market in somewhere or other, I see, and across the road from the central foyer for homeless people, I meet dozens of rough sleepers every day. And you are dead right that what many of them want more than anything else is someone to talk to them as if they are human beings and not an untidy part of the decor. They are not frightening people (except for a gang of East European men who are pretty violent and drink-sodden), they are polite and many of them are cheerful. Stop and chat and you discover people who are often more interesting than many respectable citizens in suits.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simon says:

    That’s a pretty great thing to do. It brings meaning to Christmas like you say ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Geoff, what on earth is enjoyable about helping homeless people? Makes you feel good? And do you really think saying hello makes people feel better? They need homes FFS. Not patronising help saying they are real people too. And treated as your equal. Living in Dulwich or wherever. They, are not, equal to you.

    So, people should give a few quid, salve their conscience, and then cheerfully buy a new flat screen TV, leather sofa, or take a holiday for a few grand?

    Good of you to help. But, it doesn’t affect your life at all does it? People don’t want middle class charity. They want a fucking life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Well I guess having spoken to a lot of homeless people and worked with crisis in several capacities over the years and talked to their people and not just at Christmas I have my own, no doubt unscientific views and these are they. I accept fully that I do it because I want to, helping them helps me. Maybe that’s a personality weakness but if so I’m happy to bear it. And yes they want homes but even me, a spoilt Dulwich resident can’t sort that conundrum on my own. So I’ll carry on doing my little bit and encouraging other worthy souls to do their bit. As for whether I’m being patronising, well, perhaps my post gave you that impression and of course it wasn’t intended that way. Happy new year, Kate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry that came over aggressively. Homelessness is one of my gripes. We have a civilised society and people sleep on the street. Or freeze to death in the case of the person in Birmingham. Or years ago, one of the street people we knew was found dead in a rubbish bin in Spain. None of this is right. I guess what I am trying to say is that helping out for a week once a year isn’t helping people at all. Well, for a week, maybe. So better than nothing. There are 52 weeks in a year. Not one. I don’t have an answer Geoff. I lie. I do, it’s a very leftwing one that I doubt you would agree with.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        We can agree we need radical measures that’s certain.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s great to get a reminder any time of the year, especially as winter takes hold of us. Thanks, Geoff. Great post, even better activity. 💘 Good on you. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Autism Mom says:

    Lovely, Geoff, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mary Smith says:

    Good for you, Geoff. Respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. willowdot21 says:

    Everything you say is so spot on,especially about the cracks becoming chasms! I see more and more lads and lasses on the streets even in my little town… Not as many as in London but it is growing. We do always help if we can… I remember hubby pushing this guy a mile and a half up hill to town and buying him a hot drink( the guy was in a wheelchair… long story) he was happy to spend the night in a bank hallway. We always support Crisis and every year I do at least one poem on the subject. Geoff you are a star and I salute you !! xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. noelleg44 says:

    Our local Durham Rescue Mission does much the same this side of the pond. We support them. And good on you for volunteering your time, a valuable commodity!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jan says:

    Treating folks with dignity is perhaps the most wonderful thing you can do for them. I volunteer at a church that provides Sunday afternoon lunches for low income seniors (some who are homeless) and we wait on them as if we are in a fancy restaurant. They love it. You can throw money at a problem but the human touch is the most important thing. Best wishes for a terrific 2017, Geoff!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. M. L. Kappa says:

    I agree charity can be a double-edged sword, which becomes very obvious especially when celebrities do it. However it’s an age-old human custom, and in some societies, an obligation. So many things are being done through private support, since governments are rather inept in many ways. And, unless you are Bill Gates, all each of us can do is the little we can. However, i believe every little bit helps. And I don’t believe the people eating in soup kitchens would like volunteers to stay away in case they are thought to be patronizing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mick Canning says:

    Well done, Geoff. Crisis is a really important charity. We always sponsor a place at Christmas, and for the last couple of years my wonderful step-daughter has volunteered through Christmas with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Eileen says:

    I live in a small town in Tennessee where homelessness is a relatively new problem. I am beginning an effort to gather information about the homeless and those living precariously on the edge of it and also on churches and organizations trying to help. Have been researching what is being done in different towns and countries, I would appreciate any sites you can suggest I check out for gathering ideas and facts on helping the homeless.
    Thanks for this post and for the suggestion about conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fortunately, in my small town this isn’t a prevalent problem, but it does arise. A year or so ago, a bloke was pretty much camped out just outside the bookies where my son was working. I became aware that the staff there were making sure he could shelter in the doorway when they closed, and bringing him the occasional drink and bite to eat. I also had a long chat with him one evening as I was walking past. I don’t know whether the modest monetary donation I gave him went on food, fags, drink or drugs. In a way, it didn’t matter to me. I gave him the choice.
    Most of us are so lucky, and giving up a little time and money here and there is worthwhile. But we should also look out for our friends and neighbours, because who knows what troubles they have, and maybe if we can help out before it’s too late, we won’t need to jump in with solutions after the event.
    Very thought-provoking – as you’ve probably gathered from my own response.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes, neighbours; we get so little snow that a few years ago when we had more than a dusting I met with a friend who had organised to visit some elderly neighbours to check they had what they needed. It made me realise i don’t know who our neighbours, beyond a few doors either side, are. Thank you for taking the time to comment Graeme

      Liked by 1 person

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