Help for the Homeless

The countdown to Christmas has well and truly began. Christmas trees are being decorated and cosy nights watching Christmas films by the fire are on their way. However outside the comfort of our homes, around 4,000 people are sleeping rough in London alone.  

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Many believe homeless people “bring it on themselves” and refuse to give them money as it is believed it will be used to feed their drug habit. However when you take a minute to talk to these people you realise most of them are intelligent people who want to work.

Case studies have proved homeless people are much more likely to die young with an average life expectancy of just 42 years compare to the average UK citizens 79 years. The number of homeless people who die of alcohol, drug abuse or infection is substantially higher than an average person.

Throughout London their are many charities, soup kitchens and hostels that run due to the help of volunteers.The Manna centre, photographed above is based next to London Bridge station. The Manna was opened to the homeless in 1982 and today, feeds between 130-220 people a day. Although the centre doesn’t open until 8.30am, the same faces can be seen queuing for their breakfast from 7am every day.

As well as supplying breakfast and lunch The Manna centre offers many other services. These include a clothing store, appointments with a nurse, mental health worker and English classes. However with only 10 paid employee’s, The Manna centre and most other soup kitchen’s rely on volunteers.

WNOL spoke to Vince, a homeless man known in the area for his shopping trolley in which he carries his entire life. Vince is a University of Oxford Physics graduate , he was once in a serious relationship and had a promising career. However after Vince’s relationship fell apart 9 years ago he turned to drink and gambling and was let go from his job. He has been living on a park bench ever since.

Vince told us that once the weather gets colder “the search for free shelter becomes challenging”. There are often fights for the best spots and “I have been urinated on my drunk men on more than one occasion.” However when asked about peoples genorousity in the Christmas period, Vince says “people are a lot friendlier at this time of year, last week a gentlemen with two young boys came over for a chat, handed me a sandwich, and a bag of clothes.” Vince tells me how much people like this mean to him saying “they keep me alive.” “Many people are afraid to talk to me, they don’t see me as a human being, just a piece of litter on the floor.”

Charities such as Centre Point and Alone in London aim to keep young people off the street and stop them from falling into the same traps as Vince once did. However thousands will still spend Christmas alone, on the streets this year, and like Vince, they will have a very cold Christmas.

Pictures: Jim Fishcher, Jade Dos-Santos

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