Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BBC ask, ‘do homeless people have a voice’, in this Holyrood election, they feel they don’t because they see politicians as a clique, not one of us!












Dear All

I was reading the BBC news website when I came across a piece on Glasgow City Mission.

The Glasgow City Mission is a Christian group who operate a building in Glasgow serving food to homeless people who have fallen on hard times.

The way in is to join the queue of homeless people waiting outside.

A BBC reporter Huw Williams popped in to interview people on what it means to be homeless or down on your luck.

Williams spent time talking to people, and he soon discovered that "homelessness" is complicated.

Not everyone who is here is a rough sleeper. Some have their own flats, now. Some are staying with mates and some are in hostels.

And among the people there is almost universal agreement that politicians can't possibly understand what that's like.

Roy, a former homeless man said:

“My main gripe with every politician is the only time you hear them is when there's an election. Between elections, you never hear them.”

This is relevantly true, especially of the main parties like the Labour and Tory Parties who only come out at election time.

And Roy makes a good point when he says of politicians:

"If you look at them, they're all lawyers and solicitors. You know, top of the range jobs."

That means, Roy says, that they can't know what life is like for people like him.

"You've got to walk the walk, before you can talk the talk."

And most politicians don’t have a clue or indeed understand people like Roy, for them it’s a different lifestyle.

Poor simply isn’t about lack of money, it goes beyond that.

Robert's says he very clear how he'd like to get politicians to empathise with the homeless:

"I'd put them on the broo [benefits], put them in a hostel, and let them realise what it really is all about."

And Willie is also in a hostel. He's been there since he came out of prison in January.

He says he's "sober-ish. Sober enough."

And he won't be voting on May 5th.

"There's nobody decent. Nobody worth voting for."

I would say he is wrong to tar everyone with the same brush but also right with regard to certain individuals in politics.

Some people aren’t worth voting for, right across the political divide.

Andrew Low, chief executive of the Mission, says those attitudes shouldn't be a surprise, he said:

"Many of our clients don't believe they're going to be heard, and therefore they're less inclined to be involved."

And that is the truth when people like Roy and Willie interact with organisations such as Glasgow City Council.

Help isn’t available, everything is a fight and the answer is always no!

Janet who uses a soup kitchen in the city centre says it would be good for politicians to come and see the soup kitchen, and meet the homeless people who rely on it.

She said:

"My life is hell at the moment. And I'd tell them my life's been hell."

Politicians don’t understand or in some case don’t want to understand.

Another person called Andy tells of many years of rough sleeping.

He said:

"I would ask a politician to give up their house, for a month. And come to places like the soup kitchens. And sleep the way people here sleep at night."

And the offer is there, on the table, to any candidate who wants to take up the challenge.

Andy says he'd take them round the sites where people stay.

"They're infested with rats. Plus there's dirty needles lying about, and things like that. It's dangerous, sleeping outside."

One of the politicians who have taken up the challenge is John Mason, SNP Candidate for Shettleston, prior to the election; he was working down at Glasgow City Mission helping out during the day.

However, it is one thing serving the food and another sitting down at the table, because then, you can hear the real stories of the people that society has forgotten.

And in order to really understand, you do have to pull up a chair because everyone regardless has a story to tell.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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