Monday 23 June 2014

Europe: My Observations of Homelessness in Paris, Berlin and London

My homeless life
The roughest I have ever slept is on a sofa for just over a week when I was graciously offered a roof having become homeless.
I have been a nomad for years but have had the generosity and goodwill of others for periods of time beyond overstaying my welcome, but they have not refused me.
My things are scattered between countries, cities and homes, all of which has taught me to appreciate adversity as it affects people, and yet I consider myself blessed beyond measure for I have choices and in some way, the means to make such choices.
The backstory to this has been written innumerable times on this blog, I own my experiences and my story.
Between Paris and Berlin
Yet, in the capital cities of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, many have not been that fortunate.
In Paris, it was whole families that I observed sleeping rough, it was humbling and quite instructive.
In Berlin, I never once saw a cardboard box, but there was a spirit of humanity that I noticed. Those sleeping rough were not in store doorways but inside buildings sleeping amongst the enclosed automatic teller machines.
This could mean most of the homeless had a support system to fall back on and the few without access just got this alternative.
They obviously were not threatening, which might be why they were allowed in the bank branch buildings.
Maybe, but why?
Maybe again, Berlin businesses have a human heart that beats with compassion and empathy.
However, at a very unholy hour, I saw an old man without lower limbs fast asleep in his wheelchair, his polystyrene begging cup lightly clasped in his hand, my heart melted and I put in some change with the hope that clatter of chinks did not disturb his sleep. There was no need to be thanked.
It should never be on God's good earth that a man end up old and destitute with just his wheelchair for a bed. Not in Germany and not in Europe, but that is the reality and our humanity is the poorer for it, regardless of the life story of the man, the old and the young are the responsibility of the able.
I have no smart answers to the big questions, but what I can affect in my little sphere of influence and impact with the little experience, advice, means and help I have got, I would strive to be a blessing to others.
A bed of nails in London?
London however plumbed the depths of Dickensian malevolence when pictures appeared of anti-homeless spikes and studs being installed at entrances of prime real estate properties, we were scandalised.

You would think fakirs had invaded London and were ready to entertain with one of their interesting bed-of-nails tricks, but that was not the case.
An atrocity of inhumane corporatism
Worst still was when Tesco, the supermarket giant followed suit, installing studs at their recessed storefronts, such corporate irresponsibility that tacks onto the vilest expression of capitalism is utterly, utterly beneath contempt.

Tesco has lost my custom, and though after drawing public ire they have removed the said studs that they deigned to carry out the thought just shows they have no discernible humanity.
I have written before, we have a serious homelessness problem in the UK that the system has not yet fully grasped, it is an issue I would continue to write about until I see changes.

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