Homeless people – Do you help?
By Gitte Christensen – Being approached by a homeless person is normal but when this charming young man approached me, something made me stop and think a bit about the question: Do you help homeless people?
Some time ago this man approached me, he was from Norway, a man around my own age, who never got home again from Roskilde Festival. I believe that we all know the type, the one who is somewhat cute, a bit of a mess but still becomes organized in the end. His deep blue eyes made me like him there was something about him. Under that big pile of dirt, there was a really beautiful and charming man.
He had anxiety and was ADHD diagnosed – two illnesses I can really relate to, so I knew how hard life can be. Unfortunately, he had started drinking when he got the money for it. That day he had only had three beers just so he could function normally as he said, he could not afford medicine.
He asked me, if he could borrow my phone and call his parents in Norway and I honestly did not really feel like lending him my fancy mobile phone. So I asked him why he did not go home, I mean, what type of parents leave their son in such a state in a big city? He told me that it was not a place for him; he would go and find himself a job, stop drinking and get a life in Denmark. I really believed him, several times he told me that he was not out of his mind – he was just confused.
Finally, I lent him my phone and he talked to his mother. She wanted to come and get him, but he refused, so instead she send him 200 Danish Kroner.
He thanked me with what seemed like honest appreciation and suddenly he looked at me with these big eyes and asked me what he should do now. Short of words and a stumbling for an answer, I suggested him to go to the public library, find a toilet, get cleaned and go find a job. He smiled at me with thankful eyes and he soon left.
This meeting stayed in my mind for a long time after, as I could not keep myself from wondering about this homeless man: Had he finally stopped drinking? Did he get a job? On the other hand, did his parents come and take him home? Had I made a bit of a difference to helping him out of his own private hell?
There are many homeless people; it is not only the ones sleeping under the stairs, or on the park bench. In Denmark there is no official definition of what a homeless person is but when SFI – The Danish National Centre for Social Research should map how many homeless people there were in Denmark they used a definition adapted from ETHOS (European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion, under FEANTSA, a non-governmental organization against to prevent and decrease homelessness) definition:
“As homeless, counted people who do not dispose of their own (owned or rented) house or room, which is referred to as the temporary housing alternatives or living temporarily and without contact with friends, family or acquaintances. Homeless, is also considered people without a residence for the coming night.”
UN (United Nations) estimates that around 100 million people worldwide are homeless and around 1 billion are without a decent housing. In 2015 in Denmark, 6,138 persons were registered, which is the same as 11 in every 1,000 citizens.
Where there is hope, I will help
Back to the lad from before – maybe it was fate but I was walking the streets of Copenhagen with some friends, and suddenly there he was, yelling at people from a bus stop. Of course, I said hello and I asked if he got a job. I already knew the answer to that question, he was still dirty, drunk as hell and could not focus at all. He wanted my help again, and my friends and I really tried to help him, but he just wanted more and more, even though I tried to explain him that I could not help him any more than I already had. When he started to yell at me, I closed my eyes, turned and walked away from him. Honestly, I had a lump in my throat as I said to my friends, that he could not be helped.
After that meeting I thought to myself – again, why should I use money and time on people who do not take my help seriously? I know that I only lent him my phone but I believed in him, maybe I would have even taken him home for a bath, food and some clothes. This is not an attack on neither homeless people nor people who drink – my heart goes out to both, but I cannot stop wondering whether I should stop again and try to help the next homeless person who asks for my help?
Maybe I should say no, never again, but I cannot! I may be naïve but the good means I give people the benefit of the doubt, because maybe just maybe, I could make a difference in someone’s life – and that would make it all worth it and then there will only be 99 million homeless people in the world.
So yes, I do help homeless people!