A few months ago I began speaking to Daniel, a homeless man who often sits at the end of my road. He told me about the split in his relationship with his wife, and the ‘amazing’ 18-year-old daughter he has who lives with her mother. He has a dog called Poppy who also lives with his wife in Palmers Green, who he wants ownership of when he finds somewhere to live.
I’ve spoken to Daniel pretty much every time I’ve seen him, and if I haven’t stopped for a chat then we’ve always said hello. He knows me as ‘the girl with the photographs’ because I approached him with an idea for an art/ awareness project; I gave him a disposable camera and asked him to take pictures of his daily life. I’m now waiting for them to be developed so I can put them on display somewhere, and honestly I’m really excited because whatever they turn out to be will be an insight into the life of someone who is massively stigmatised by society. The point of my project was to humanise homeless people, something that is so important – when I first spoke to Daniel and asked his name he stared at me and went ‘no one ever asks’ and then ‘no one sees us’. It was then that I promised him that I see him, and that I will make others see him, and other homeless people, too.
Lately, Daniel has begun looking awful; he’s hunched over and almost comatose most times I walk past him, and when I say hello there is less and less recognition in his eyes. I know that the world sees the homeless community as druggies, violent and dirty people addicted to mind-altering things. I cannot deny for one moment that this is the case with some, but just like with any stereotype it is the mistakes of the few that taint the many. I hate that, and I hate that Daniel may now be slipping into the stereotype.
He will die. There is little point beating about the bush and denying this because honestly at this point I think it’s the truth, unless someone can help him. But there seemingly exist no charities designed to help the homeless get back on their feet that truly help – sure, the YMCA can offer accommodation but hostels are on average around £8 a night and people like Daniel simply do not have that money. I am well aware that that might be ‘because they spend their money and drugs on alcohol’ but so what? An addiction is an addiction, and it’s terribly difficult to stop, and near impossible to move past without the right kind of help. Charities that do exist are hard to find and even harder to approach if you are in trouble, particularly because those who need the most help are most often those who cannot ask for it.
I don’t know how to help Daniel now, because talking to him cannot get rid of his problems, and buying him food and water cannot make up for the other things in his body.
He can’t die. He is a person, just like you and I are people. He has a family and friends, and I know that this was not the life he chose; he was happy, and it took one small thing to cause a snowball effect that has led to this. I refuse to let him go without a fight, but I don’t know how to help him. If anyone sees this and has any ideas of where to look for assistance I would be eternally grateful because Daniel is my friend. I have seen him change from alive to a shell of the person I met a few months ago, and it is heartbreaking because this is not what he wanted.
I am not asking for money, I am asking for help. I am asking for awareness to be raised of the horrors of homelessness and for the stigma to be lessened. Just because you do not have a home does not mean that you do not deserve one.