Homelessness: A lesson in the act of judgment

It is not without its blessings that I have a mind which, presented with certain challenges, is detached from the wider emotional elements of that challenge, reverting to actioning only the process and procedure required to complete the task at hand. Never has that been so necessary to my sanity, as it has in my current role working in housing, in temporary accommodation.

Only just approaching 3 months into this role and I have met people, heard stories and gained an awareness of socital situations I didn’t know even existed, other than through the fictions of television. Truth be told, some insights put Shameless to shame. Often, the characters don’t have such philosophical insights or turn of phrase, to match those bequeathed to be possible on screen representations. You see, the television characters have script writers who provide them with humour, pathos, philiosophy, tragedy; they have a director who shimmys them to perform a scene in a particular way. On television, the characters are part of a wider society, with interchangeable plots and story lines involving a select number of characters who inhabit small geographic area, who’s paths are  intwined, preserved for posterity on film.

The implied or known backgrounds of real and fictional can have  stark similarities; jobless, pennieless, rough sleepers, young kids of 16 thrown out by parents, wrong’uns who would steal from you as soon as look at you, those who might have been in care, the abused, those with learning difficulties, sufferers of domestic violence (male, female and young people), sex workers, drug addicts and alcoholics, or those teetering on the precipice of disaster through an incident out of their control, those who appear out of acts of circunstance. There are those folk who have simply fallen on hard times, in a period where economic circumstance has kicked them in the teeth, left them on the floor, the foot of fate resting firmly upon their neck and  prevents them from getting up.

The reality of life for the unfortunates who find themselves in this position is something really very different. There is no small geographic area where they live, no shared notion of all being in the same or similar predicament where a variation on a theme binds their lives together. Yes, some may have friends, might have family, know good people who can help and support. Some might benefit from local services, charitable or council based. For many though, there is just existence. I am not able to say whether this is a lonely existence, whether they are content, whether they wish for better, or simply don’t know if better exists. Even when I take off my process and procedure tinted spectacles, I can still only look in through the window of these peoples lives and judge their life and what they don’t have, in direct comparison to my life and what I do have.

It is in this view, this narrow window of judgement available to me (to all of us) that lies an important consideration; perhaps the most important consideration, and one that has only come into my reality now I have worked directly in this field. In my short tenure, I have been out on visits with a colleague, sometimes to properties, other times just on the streets. He has introduced me to rough sleepers, maybe better known to passers by as tramps or beggars. He has informed me about their backgrounds, told me their stories. He has even intorduced me. I have therefore met and talked with several ‘tramps’, had one to one conversations with individuals that I otherwise, in my life as a citizen, would never have had. I have learned that these are real people, with real lives, that for some reason have been much less fortunate than I. They are detached from much of what  we consider normal, their behaviour an anomoly to us, because it falls outside of what we recognise as our societal boundaries.

The fact is that, as a citizen, my judgement would have been made through a greater ignorance than it is today, all those prjudices we hold against stark difference. Through the knowledge I am gaining, what I have heard, the people I have met, the back strories I become aware of that keep coming in all their variations and guises, I have learned what I believe to be a very important thing. It is not to judge differently, rather, to judge less.

As I often find is the case with my posts, I don’t think the conclusion is where I was going when I started out writing. The insights into  people who find themselves on the fringes of ‘normal’ society, whether permanently or just for a short while, is a topic on which I have minimal experience. However, sometimes I find the lesson learned via the unplanned route,  is more valuable. I’ll let you be the judge!


4 thoughts on “Homelessness: A lesson in the act of judgment

  1. Wow. Powerful stuff Spencer!
    It does make you think about how LUCKY some of us are and that we should put our problems into perspective.

    Sometimes, I hear of some of my acquaintances who are hard up after maybe an issue with their work or something similar, but I think, you’re still in your £1m home (or more) with 3 or 4 kids in private school! The wife still driving around in her ‘Chelsea Tractor’! Are you looking for sympathy!!

    Really liked this post…

    • Thanks Donald.

      There is not a day goes by when there isn’t another new story, set of circumstances, or lesson learned about those who slip under the radar of our society. It’s a sad state of affairs that I hope I never have at live through.

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