When I first came to London, I was caught off guard by the sheer scale of the homeless population. It seemed to me that you couldn’t turn a corner without being met by a new face asking for spare change. When I brought this up withÂ my brother-who had been living in London for one year at the time-Â I was met by the response:Â â€œyou get used to it.â€
Five years laterÂ andÂ I can’t say this isÂ something that Iâ€™ve gotten used to. Â TheÂ problemÂ is getting worse every year, with local agencies reporting thatÂ 7,581 people slept rough in LondonÂ in 2014/2015; over doubleÂ the figures from 2009/2010.
What shocked me even more, however,Â wasÂ our reactions to homelessness;Â itâ€™s somethingÂ we are very good at having sympathy for from afar, yet in practice our actions are constrained by our concerns of safety and our cynicism of being conned. Many of usÂ avoid eye contact and walk on the other side of the street to try and distance ourselves from the reality.
On Monday, October 12,Â I attendedÂ aÂ homelessÂ charity concertÂ in St John’s church (right beside the Waterloo Campus)Â organised by the Bermondsey Voices; a choir which included one of our very own Kingâ€™s nursing students, Liz George,Â who also sings for the GKT choir. This madeÂ me see that there are things that we, as students, can get involved in to make a difference.
I spoke withÂ Les Ackley, a volunteer for the charity for 4 years, to find out more about how students can help. He spoke of rolesÂ likeÂ sorting the bedding, takingÂ part in the annual sleep out and serving meals.Â LesÂ emphasised that volunteering is not always about meeting the homeless but about what you can do for the overall “mosaic”:Â volunteeringÂ is justÂ one piece in the bigger issue.
WhileÂ many of us feelÂ passionate aboutÂ tacklingÂ homelessness,Â we alsoÂ feelÂ clueless as to how we can help. This event, however, isÂ a clear example of how students in London, who are met with homelessness every day, can make a difference.
IfÂ you want to find outÂ more information about how you can get involved please visit: