Show kindness to those on the streets
This year the Welsh Government has committed to ensuring that anyone experiencing homelessness can access accommodation. Bonnie Navarra, director of Housing Justice Cymru, a charity supported by the Church in Wales' Centenary appeal, outlines what we can do to help vulnerable people on our streets.
Christmas is a notoriously difficult time for people affected by homelessness. This Christmas will certainly present new challenges, but also new opportunities and there is something simple we can all do this year to help people genuinely affected by homelessness.
It is worth briefly considering why people are pushed into homelessness in the first place. Over 85% of people who have experienced homelessness in Wales have had an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)1. ACEs are stressful experiences occurring during childhood that directly harm a child or negatively affect the environment in which they live. This can include being neglected or abused, or growing up around violence, mental illness or substance abuse. The likelihood of homelessness is increased by 16 times for people with more than three ACEs.
Thanks to the recent research into ACEs and homelessness by Public Health Wales, we now know that an individual’s journey towards homelessness often begins in childhood. Traumatic childhood experiences can disrupt the normal development of a child, leading to a lack of resilience and persisting social and emotional problems, which are difficult to overcome. Considering the trauma some children experience, it is no surprise that many aren’t able to develop the ‘emotional toolbox’ required to deal with the pressures of life, particularly if that life is one full of challenges.
When new pressures hit, individuals (who have not had the chance to develop healthy coping mechanisms) turn to health-harming behaviours as a way of coping with the intense stress they may be experiencing. Many of us do this – even if we have not had a traumatic childhood; we may turn to a takeaway meal and a glass of wine after a particularly stressful day. We know it isn’t good for us or our bank balance, but the stress makes it much harder to make good, long-term decisions.
Although we can’t change the adversity some have faced during their lives, we can help them to build resilience and overcome it. We can all do this by showing kindness. Through our Christian values we can make a difference, by connecting emotionally and showing compassion. If you see someone experiencing homelessness, stop to say hello and maybe ask if you can get them something to eat or drink. And, of course make sure they know to go to their Local Authority to access accommodation.
We pray for a world where everybody has access to a safe and comfortable home with the support they need to be able to flourish and thrive.