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There but for the grace of God; HOMELESSNESS IS A COMPLEX ISSUE AND IT'S NOT FOR US TO JUDGE THOSE WHO LIVE ON THE STREETS.

WHEN I'm tucked up in bed on a freezing cold night I often think how dreadful life must be for people who aren't as lucky.

I can't imagine how hard an existence it is for people who don't have a home of their own.

I know thousands of people across Huddersfield have a lot of sympathy for the plight of our town's homeless population.

Huddersfield Mission's winter appeal to raise PS50,000 for people in need hit 10% of its target after just a week, thanks to generous donations from people across the town.

Unfortunately there is also some judgement of homeless people. Some say they are all drug addicts who have nobody to blame but themselves.

I have seen homeless drug addicts shamed on social media with people saying it is their own fault they're in that situation. They say 'this would never happen to me.'.

But housing charity Shelter says homelessness is caused by a "complex interplay between a person's individual circumstances and adverse 'structural' factors outside their direct control."

This could include a lack of qualifications, lack of social support, debt, relationship breakdown and poor physical or mental health; family issues, having grown up in care, been in prison or unemployment, poverty and lack of affordable housing.

Shelter says the three main reasons homeless people give are parents, friends or relatives unwilling or unable to continue to accommodate them; relationship breakdown including domestic violence or loss of an assured shorthold tenancy.

It's clear that homelessness is a result of much more complex reasons than being addicted to heroin - which is often in itself caused by a range of factors.

I'd argue many people with severe drug or alcohol problems have other issues which have led to their dependency on substances.

But no matter what reasons a person has for becoming homeless it's not for any of us to judge.

I donate to Shelter every month, but I also give street beggars money. It's controversial.

The Salvation Army says it can trap people in the endless cycle of rough sleeping and homelessness, but Streets Kitchen founder Jon Glackin told the Independent the best way to help rough sleepers is to give them money directly.

How they choose to spend the money is none of my business but I know that someone in a desperate situation will spend it on whatever they need most.

For homeless women that might be sanitary products. Can you imagine coping with a period when you're living on the streets with no money? It's easier to blame somebody in a desperate situation such as this than it is to empathise with them because then you can feel justified in doing nothing to help.

But when you understand that anybody could end up in that situation due to circumstances beyond their control it becomes much harder to turn a blind eye.

So when I'm in bed at night, listening to the wind and rain, I give thanks that I am safe, warm and dry, with plenty of food and clean water.

I remember how lucky I am - and how one day it just might happen to me.

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2018
Words:522
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