Shalom: Louisa

I walk 20 minutes to University every day. Each way, I pass at least six homeless people. When I go shopping in town, I pass many more. Homelessness is a huge problem in Glasgow, and I read that it is set to increase, but I don’t think it has to.

From 11th February until 17th February, Just Love Glasgow volunteered with Glasgow City Mission at the Lodging House Mission, a night shelter for homeless people.

Volunteering at the shelter was an amazing experience, one which I would recommend to everyone. I was speaking to friends about doing it beforehand and a lot of them associate homeless people with crime and drugs. Many were worried for me that I would spend a night with them. I didn’t share those worries. I think in order to end homelessness we need to try to break these stereotypes.

What I learnt from the people I met, is that being homeless often comes very suddenly. One man I met was on a waiting list for a flat, but he had nowhere else to go until then as his relationship had suddenly ended. Some people said they felt they didn’t have the help or support to get off the streets. Many also struggled with their mental health, feeling helpless and too anxious to try to organise meetings with housing associations. None of these reasons for homelessness are far-fetched and importantly I realised that it can happen to anyone. A a lot of these people have been through some very traumatic experiences, and in trying to cope, they ended up on the streets.

Something that surprised me was how well dressed many of them were. If I saw them walking down the street, I would have never guessed that they didn’t have a home to go back to. It backed up the idea that homelessness is not always connected with social class, anyone can fall victim to it.

Just Love’s theme this year is Shalom: restoring relationships with others and God. In line with this theme, I suggest that we can help the vulnerable in our society who have lost hope in their lives by spending time, speaking, and building relationships with them. This can take the form of simply greeting and acknowledging them as you pass them, sharing a coffee or sitting with them to pray with them. It’s important to show them they’re not alone, that they are loved, that there’s hope for them. If more and more people treat the vulnerable and homeless with love and compassion, they would feel the support they need to try and change their situation. All of us are capable of these actions, of these small, but effective, possibly life-changing acts of kindness.

A lot of the people on the streets did not come from the same loving and supportive background that I did, so I can’t fully understand what they’re going through. Although homelessness can happen to anyone, it is more likely to affect the vulnerable in society. I ask that you can take some time out of your day to pray for them, and next time you see someone on the street, you can say a prayer to yourself, or speak to them directly, but always remember that they’re children of God, just like you and me.

Words by Louisa Mann

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