This is a busy week for awareness raising – it's Challenge Poverty Week all week, and yesterday was World Homelessness Day and World Mental Health Day. It's also National Curry Week and Wednesday is World Post Day. I could go on. Every day is a day for something and sometimes it's hard to hear the messages for all the noise the messages make.
So maybe we have to choose. Prioritise even. We can’t “boil the ocean” so let’s just choose something to speak up about.
Or maybe not. Maybe instead, we should step back and see the connections between the days and speak about them instead. We know, for example, the biggest driver to homelessness is poverty. We know the connections between the stresses of poverty and poorer mental health and that those who find themselves struggling with homelessness also often have poorer mental health. So maybe its kind of obvious – and we need to speak about not just homelessness but its drivers and its impacts to really understand the message and the meaningfulness of the days.
Homelessness is never just about the lack of a home. There’s always a deeper story, a human narrative behind the lack of safe, secure and affordable accommodation in someone’s life. And any response to homelessness needs to always, without exception I would argue, start with the start, not just the lack of a house. It is a question of humanity, not just one of physical resources. The pathway out of any tough reality is always an inner pathway, a journey of the soul in its widest and deepest sense, first and foremost - and homelessness is no exception.
Recently I heard someone speak about their journey with Cyrenians. It began with a battle with addiction and has lasted nearly two decades. It's a journey which is now a much better experience than when it first began and it does involve a tenancy being acquired and maintained. But this individual told their audience what really mattered was that they had, in Cyrenians, found the family they desired. Their hope and transformation lay in how they felt about themselves and the relationships which nourished and maintained them - not simply in their employment status, their bank balance or their ability to hold a tenancy.
Maybe the fact there are many more designated days this week than simply World Homelessness Day is in truth a helpful reminder that the solutions to homelessness are about our humanity and the health of our souls. And a wee curry never goes amiss either – especially when it’s cooked ourselves and shared with friends!