I went to Edinburgh on Tuesday, it’s my favourite city. Near 7pm we dropped into McDonalds – yeah, I know. Outside sat a young homeless man, (probably around 19-20), calling out for spare change. He was very loud, to the point of awkward.
As we were just going in, I had decided, I would drop by him when I came out if still there. It is the charity most closest to my heart… and I usually do watch for one homeless person on any trip. It’s not hard to do.
When I came out, I handed him ‘a little help’. He was very quiet, and then I observed his face. I tend to like eye contact – the eyes are the windows of the soul. He was sitting, holding up a cardboard sign, his face was scrunched in pain. I’m guilty of not reading what was written. My concern was with his body language. I asked the obvious ‘stupid’ question. “Are you okay?”
He said, “not really.” I did venture to ask him what was wrong. Again, pretty stupid, but I didn’t want to leave him, because… he was crying.
His reply was, “I haven’t slept in 3 days, I’ve been here 5 hours. I just want to be able to go to a hostel and sleep. I’m sorry.” “I’m too scared to go to sleep in case I get attacked on the streets.”
His woolly hat had about £2.50 including my contribution.
I asked him how much the hostel was – £18.
Seriously, this is just so heartbreaking…
He didn’t need to apologise, and whilst our conversation wasn’t long, I felt both his fear and knew this wasn’t an act. Most of the homeless I’ve ever met, manage to mask stuff. This was sheer exhaustion and breaking point.
What we don’t notice but would if we were homeless
Earlier on, I’d spent half an hour at 2.45 sitting on a picnic bench outside a small converted garage, whilst my daughter was attending an appointment. I noticed the lovely cyclamen in containers outside the door. I managed to half-heartedly read a page or two on my phone – a kindle book. Then, my butt felt damp, my back ached, my knees pained and my hands were freezing. I had no more concentration (and inside I was screaming for warmth and time to pass). So, I escaped for a walk along a street to find a cosy gift shop full of beautiful things to gaze upon.
Back to where I was now and our young homeless
He didn’t really have that option, did he? I did what I could to help him further towards his goal. He had time to find a few extra quid. Richard, it still plays on my mind, I hope you found somewhere safe Tuesday night (and last night). And possibly a few more strangers willing to help you.
All I’m really trying to say is, please watch out for homeless folks… it’s freezing out there. It could easily be you or I.
Think on the ‘any spare change’ thing, cos honestly, you can’t buy a chocolate bar for much less than a pound these days, so 20p won’t even buy YOU a treat. If you can spare more, think on that.
That’s it really… thanks for reading.