Image © Copyright Amy Charles Media 2014

27 Oct 2014

I Matter

Now you see 'em. Now you don't.
Now you see 'em. Now you don't.

So a suit wearing stranger slips in the street.
What do you do?
You check they're alright,
if there's anything you can do to help.
And you offer to call an ambulance,
and you buy them a bottle of water.
Do everything you can to reach the Good Deed Feed.
And you see them off, and then carry on,
feeling snugly smug inside.

The BlackBerry buzzes and your bus was on time.
All well and good.

But on the same street, someone slumps in a doorway.
A thousand yard stare and a warm can of Oranjeboom 8.5.
A rolled up cigarette
Last week's clothes.
Rather ironically,
what you might call "bed hair."

And they might mumble,
or they might well have conviction.
When they ask you for less than you left in the tip jar at Costa.

Only this time, you don't stop,
or check if they're alright.
And you know that there is something you can do to help, but you carry on.
Fucking ignore 'em.
It's their fault, you think. Their choice.

But 50p costs a whole lot more than acknowledgement
as fellow a human being.

Let me ask you something:
how many times do you see a homeless person with a dog,
and instinctively feel sorry for the dog?

And they say there's a system in place.
A system to make the homeless become human again.
For these inconvenient scourges on society.

But if you take someone
who sleeps in a doorway in the rain,
or in a barn covered in crawling rats,
or who shits himself with no fresh clothes;
whose life is a never ending Groundhog Day,
walking the streets again and again and again
but with nothing to gain
except for the next meal,
or the next drink,
or the next hit
of filthy beautiful heroin.
If they're not behind bars at Her Majesty's pleasure,
they're imprisoned by the psychological traumas of reality.
They can't afford the 60 pounds an hour to see a shrink.
do you really think that they'd turn back,
if the system was anything like what it should be?
If the system was in place to meet the needs of the people
who need it more than you could even imagine...

'cause they live in a parallel universe.
And the system might seem reasonable
within your expectations.
Keeping meetings at 2pm, 3 weeks on Wednesday.
But this is a person who roams the streets 24/7.

Who's given up hope.
Given up on trying.
And the system, somehow,
has given up on them too.
If the people in place to help have given up,
how the fuck do you expect these to even start?
When should vulnerability ever meet blindly with disdain?

On this jolly game of Snakes & Ladders:
9 months of sacrifice and compliance,
1 tiny blip, and it's back to the start again.
Why bother?

Some will fail, and maybe don't deserve a chance.
But for once, let them enter a room as an equal.
And enjoy those simple words that everybody craves:

"I matter."

Commissioned by Arc Light; a charity that provides accommodation and support to homeless men and women in York.