Just a strawberry milkshake

My eldest child turned five today and we had forgotten to buy the 10 (yes, 10!) AAA batteries that his new Lego train needed. The air was pretty brutal as I de-iced the car at 7:30 am to make my way to the 24-hour Tesco but needs must!

The first thing I saw when I arrived at the carpark was a man in his late thirties waking up for the day underneath an outdoor stairwell. The temperature was 1°C. I approached and asked him if he would like something from the shop. He requested a strawberry milkshake.

I walked around the store and picked up a few things, all the while trying to stop myself from crying. Perhaps it was because I was feeling emotional for my eldest’s 5th birthday, perhaps because I’ve been ill for the last couple of days, but it really hit me hard seeing that man wake up there in that cold place. I kept imaging how this whole warm world was going on directly above him. These workers and shoppers in Tesco, me included, were quite literally walking above his bed, perhaps even unaware of his existence. I thought about how perhaps once he was a five-year-old boy like my son waking up to presents from loving parents. Who knows. But I know that someone somewhere would have once cradled that baby and hoped for the best outcome for him in life. I thought about how it could be any one of us there. Most of us are only a paycheck or two away from defaulting on our rent our mortgage.

I gathered a few extra things for him alongside my batteries: a hoodie, a toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes, deodorant and, not forgetting, the strawberry milkshake.

I could barely speak to him when I handed him the bag as I didn’t want him to see I was upset for him. I cried all the way home in the car.

I’ve since sat down and done some reading. The Office of National Statistics states: “In England, since the current methodology was established in 2010, the numbers of people sleeping rough have been steadily rising across London and the rest of England […] Over the last five years, the numbers of rough sleepers identified across the whole of England have nearly doubled, from 2414 to 4,677.” An article in the BMJ states how “homeless women die on average at 43 and homeless men at 47, compared with 77 for the rest of us.”

This is the reality of the United Kingdom in 2019. No one should be living on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world. Certainly, no one should be dying on the streets. Yet here we are.

So, what is at fault here? It’s not easy to find a definitive answer. Yet, it’s safe to say that homelessness in all of its forms has increased since the Tories have been in power. It’s hardly surprising given all of the austerity measures and the lack of social housing.

I won’t be voting for them on the 12th of December. This isn’t the only reason but it’s certainly one that was brought to the forefront for me today.

Sent from Outlook

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