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2019 and we are only giving someone a place to lay their head in a safe, warm environment when the weather dictates. The chance of a conversation, a hot drink, and a small piece of cake to line their stomachs when the conditions become so severe. Only when it is too cold to lay on a pavement with nothing but all your belongings and a piece of cardboard from a skip.
Life can be turned on its head at any point, for any one of us. People deal with events in their lives differently. Some look for escape, while others focus on hope.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a dedicated team that were willing to give up their time in their structured lives, governed by routine and boundaries. To open their warm hearts, and give these less fortunate individuals a place of safety and some comfort for the night. It wasn't much to you and I the fortunate ones with a bed and our central heating, just a space on the floor in a church with a duvet and pillow. But to these individuals it was five star accommodation compared to what they were used to. It was warm, safe, and they were offered a sense of belonging. They were welcomed in with open arms, wished good night, and had someone to listen to them if they opted.
I am not going to lie the smell of alcohol and the sharps boxes filled with used needles would make anyone feel uneasy. However, you have to remember these are people, people with feelings and emotions, people who time and time again have been rejected and neglected, people who have been abused and raped. People whose voices don't get heard, people whose faces are just statics on a spreadsheet on someone's computer, that get published in our media.
The faces from our high streets, the curled up carcasses that lay in shop doorways, the lifeless souls that ask for your spare change.
So, as an outsider, I can begin to understand why drugs and alcohol offer an escape to these people. I can't begin to imagine what it is like to be judged as the lowest of the low, and discarded to the fringes of society.
My time with these individuals lasted the duration of the night. As the night went on I listened to individual stories, and began to understand what these people can offer our communities. One gentlemen spoke five languages, another worked as a cabinet maker. I listened and followed their journeys of how quickly their lives declined, due to poverty and trauma.
I came away with an impression that will last in my mind.
A life's lesson is to watch someone drinking a hot brew before they part back to reality, unsure of where they will lay their head the following night.