Homelessness is something most of us have exposure to, but a lot of time we don’t understand it. Maybe we have prejudiced thoughts in the back of our mind like, “why don’t they just get a job” or “just stop drinking” or “don’t be lazy.” However, the homeless problem is much more complicated than that.
Luckily, a group of us from London Real got the chance to go deeper into understanding t homelessness. This past Thanksgiving, we decided to spend the day cooking for hundreds of homeless people in London. We teamed up with the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT) which feeds 5,000 homeless people every year.
It was an incredible experience, and through it, I got to meet Gary Davidge, the manager of SCT’s homeless drop-in center since 2010. He is really on the ground with the homeless community, learning about their lives, and educating others about the problem.
He taught me so much about what is actually going on in the street. I learned that 83-90% of these people are addicted to alcohol or drugs. In many cases there are instances of childhood trauma. Learning about this with my London Real Team was such an eye opening experience.
Every day, Gary works with the homeless community, serving over 6,000 meals to 500 people in the last year. Gary has introduced new projects to the drop-in including a pre-abstinence group, art and IT classes. In the next five years, he plans to launch specific programs for women and addiction recovery.
I hope that my talk with Gary will help to bring to light the seriousness of the homeless situation and allow you to find ways you can help and contribute to those in need.
Changing Your Perceptions About the Homeless
Gary began our conversation by stating, “the biggest key thing to try to change homelessness is to get as many people aware of the whole situation in the first place.” Anyone can turn on their TV and see statistics, but until you actually sit down with these people, you will never understand the reality of the situation.
The more groups of people, like those of us from London Real who went together, who can experience the situation first hand, the easier it will be to change the public perception of homelessness.
What I learned from hearing the stories of the people at the shelter was simple – they are just normal people in difficult circumstances.
It’s really easy to walk down the street and turn a blind eye to the homeless person sitting on the corner. Real change is only possible when we recognize the humanity of these people and take the time to lend a hand or even just share a conversation.
Gary notes that a lot of the people who frequent the drop-in are people in their 30s who had troubled pasts. However, these people recognize their failings and don’t want to go back down bad paths.
Gary maintains that “The more that we can put that word out that people just need support and help, and it’s the community that’s got to change that. Not just the homeless community, not just people that have been in that position in the past, and definitely not just people who have grown up with similar backgrounds,”
Gary says that he has seen so many homeless people with the potential to do something great with their lives; however, until they can believe in themselves, it’s hard for change to happen, but how can they believe in themselves when the community doesn’t believe in them either?
Becoming Personal Can Change A Life
At the drop-in I had the opportunity to share my own story of addiction with the men and women present. I told them about my overdoses and how moving to London really saved my life and allowed me to reach 17 years clean and almost 2 years sober.
After sharing my story, a lot of the people were shocked at how I had been able to change my life. At the same time, I saw a lot of eyes open up at the idea that if I could do it, so could they.
It also allowed me to see the incredible power of conversation. It’s more than just passing out food and coffee, it’s really about starting conversation, and it can take months to build trust to even get someone’s name.
I told my whole team going into this experience, that the point was to help people by sitting down and talking with them rather than by just cooking and serving food. Gary even commented that the meals are a way to get people to show up at the center, but once they are there that’s when you can really start to help someone turn their life around.
Gary is always asking himself how he can help even further. He wonders how he can get small groups going to support women on the streets?
How can he get people to come to pre-abstinence classes?
How can more groups be formed to foster meaningful conversation?
Of course, helping people meet basic needs like food and water are incredibly important, but in order to enact lasting change, Gary wants to then help enroll people in benefit programs, find housing, help with addiction counseling, and eventually get work placement.
This all starts with beginning the conversation and finding about who someone is and what you can do specifically to help them on their path.
I have so much more to share with you all from my conversation with Gary, so tune back in tomorrow and we dive even deeper into this homelessness problem.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored