Friday, 30 April 2010

Being Humane For The Homeless.

Recently, two of my blogging friends 'A Homeless Man Dies, Alone And Discarded.' by 'askcherlock' and
'Homeless Man Dies As People Look And Walk By.', by 'Kelly', posted up and reflected upon the saddening, disturbing plight of a homeless man; captured on video.
Now that video is demonstration of the blight that plagues some sections of humanity.  The indifference, the not wanting to get involved mentality of an apathetic Society.
Perhaps those passing by the poor homeless soul in that video
 would have ignored the fate of anyone.  They may have walked by a crying child; they may have walked by a well-dressed man bleeding in the gutter.  They might have ignored the pleas of a battered and bruised woman; the victim of domestic violence.
Yet I do wonder if, based on appearance, the homeless man was left in despair. Considered by those who too easily pass judgement; to be a pitiful waste and not worth bothering with.  I just don't know.
One of the most profound times in my life was when I worked with the homeless and the 'rough sleepers' in the city of Stoke-on-Trent.  The people I worked with did not fit the convenient stereotypes.  There was the educated, articulate man who had lost everything through a bitter divorce.  Everything except his dignity.  There was the young father with his daughter who called home a cardboard box.  Then there were the teenagers.  Frightened, homeless kids shunned by their families.  I provided them with warm drinks and kind conversation.  You could see in their eyes how much such gestures meant.
Of course, I witnessed the drug-fuelled and drunken behaviour.  The sad, the desperate, the lonely, trying to find comfort from a hostile environment.  Indeed, the combination of drugs and the relentless fear of not knowing what was happening to their lives; is a prime factor in the onslaught of mental illness.  A negative reality can have deep and lasting effects on the mental health well being of those who have found their life turned upside down.
Those times working with the homeless and the rough sleepers has provided a powerful and inspirational impact on me.  I know you cannot pass judgement on others based on preconceived notions and misconceptions.  I may see a brother or sister in need and I will not pass them by.  I see people, through circumstances beyond their control, lying cold, tired, hungry and alone in darkened shop doorways.  I see the sadness in their eyes.  I note the looks of disgust from those who are more than willing to stigmatise.
Circumstances so overwhelming and despairing can happen to any of us.  This isn't just being humane for the homeless.  This is being humane to all humanity.  So imagine if you were that lost soul in a darkened shop doorway;  you may well experience the human disease of apathy.  I hope not.


  1. This has to be one of the saddest stories I've heard of in a long time. Every life is precious and it's hearbreaking that not one person phoned for an ambulance for this man.


  2. Dear Gary,
    Any one of us could find ourselves in these dire circumstances. I have often heard people say that they are "one paycheck away from being homeless." Do they really stop to consider that when they pass a homeless person or one who looks a bit shabby and needs just a tad of help. We 'cast our bread upon the waters," don't we. And the callous nature of society can be visited upon any one of us.

    My best to you,

  3. Dear Gary,
    I feel I came close to being homeless myself through the effects of mental illness, which is the flip-side, I suppose, of becoming mentally ill though homelessness. Often behaving strangely and drinking heavily, my father took the decision to throw me out of the parental home. I had nowhere to go and it was the middle of winter (2004, if I remember correctly). After that expereince, I certainly feel a great deal of empathy for anyone who finds themselves homeless. Indeed, I found myself at one point being spoken to by a student. He must have only been 18 or 19, and I was sitting on the floor drinking from a can of lager. By this time I seemed to fit all the criteria of your average homeless person. As he spoke to me, though, I began to feel increasingly the crushing irony of the whole situation. I felt like telling him, even though he was trying to be kind, that I, too, had once been a student. Hell, I'd passed my degree, tried post-grad study and held down a job. Even had a book of poetry publushed. I was an intelligent man, yet through the machinations of my illness, I had been reduced to this!
    Fortunately my situation did not last long and, with the death of my aunt, I was able, with the kind permission of my parents, to move in to her now vacant house, where I still live. Without my parents' help, I would have been destitute.
    So, Gary, as you make clear in your post, as it is with mental illness, everyone who finds themselves homeless has a story, and indeed it would seem that these two issues can often be inter-related. It seems important, then, that the homeless and maentally ill alike, tell their stories to show the sometimes apathetic public that we are all human, most of us deserving much, much better than we get.
    I praise you, also, for taking time to spend with people who find themselves in such dire circumstances. Indeed,if you ever do it again I would love to come with you to lend a helping hand.
    Yours with All the Best and feeling lucky today,

  4. To be 'humane' is to rise to the level of human greatness in my view. If we were all compassionate and caring this kind of thing could not happen and the world would be a better place.
    Even better than caring is taking action so I hereby award you Bazza's medal for humanity!

  5. You speak the truth, Gary. Most people passes judgement on everyone else without really knowing their story; without really knowing who they are and without caring. I ask, "Isn't it enough that the person is a human being to want to help that person in need?" Like you pointed out- anyone can become homeless at any time- by way of mental illness, job loss and so on You have provided a thought provoking post here, friend. I commend you for your past and present efforts in showing kindness and caring to your fellow man.

    Thanks for giving me a shout out for my post and blog. Take care, man and stay true.

  6. Sadly, I don't think people want to get involved.
    Gary, you know, when I am on a bender I were an ID badge around my neck so they can pour me into a taxi cab and I tend to wind up back home or in Scotland or somewhere like Stoke. Tragic, what?

  7. It is wonderful that you are now so well that you can have room in your heart for others. Those of us who can cope have a responsibility to others who are struggling, as you know only too well. Hugs.. x

  8. I can sense how you feel Gary. The case could be different for every society that exists on the planet, but I bet that the people from where that took place have a program running inside their heads that says, "I don't want to get involved." To better understand what happened, I recommend to anyone who is interested reading the "Bystander effect" and the "Good samaritan law." Just google the terms and you'll see the wikipedia articles.

  9. Hi Suzanne,
    I looked at that video with utter disbelief. I cannot fathom why nobody wanted to get involved.
    How much effort would it have taken to dial '911'?
    With respect, Gary.

  10. Dear Cher,
    What you note is so very true. We do not know what the future may bring. Overwhelming negative situations can happen, like you say, to anyone.
    It can be all too easy to pass judgement on others without knowing the true story.
    My best to you, Gary

  11. Dear David,
    Your tale works very well with the overall theme of my posting.
    Your articulate and thoughtful response clearly demonstrates that circumstances can truly get the better of us.
    Thankfully, your eventual outcome was not one of continued despair. You have gained wisdom and knowledge. Through your experience comes the gift of genuine empathy.
    Thank you so much for your heartfelt response to my posting.
    With great respect, Gary.

  12. Hi bazza,
    Your definition of 'humane' is most profound.
    If only more people would take the time to extend a hand of kindness to those in need; this would indeed be a better place for all.
    Thank you for 'Bazza's medal for humanity.' I like to think that there are plenty of worthy candidates for such a flattering award.
    With kindness and respect, Gary.

  13. Hi Kelly,
    And those who would pass judgement should take the time to find the real truth that beats in the heart of their fellow man.
    I know that you are a kind and compassionate man, Kelly. If more folks had your attitude this would be a better world.
    I thought it was the kind of story that merited linking into you excellent blog. Your take on this very sad tale makes me realise that you and I are very much in tune with creating a positive environment.
    Peace and respect, Gary.

  14. Hi Tom,
    Sadly, a number of people do not want to get involved because of an underlying fear factor of what the consequences of their actions might be.
    Tom, I hope that wherever the taxi takes you; you are not exposed to a situation where you need help and there is none on offer.
    Take good care.
    With respect and well wishes, Gary.

  15. Hi Carole,
    It is indeed wonderful that I am well enough to show compassion and yes, empathy, to those whose lives have been bombarded with negative influences.
    I am blessed with having the inner strength to have made the decision that my life would be a positive one. I try to exude my positive aspect towards others.
    What you say rings so true. Thank you Carole. Hugs and kindness, Gary x

  16. Hi Ryhen,
    It is most assuredly the 'I don't want to get involved' mentality. In fact, I believe there is also a bit of 'I'll just pretend it isn't happening' and 'that will never happen to me' attitude in the thinking process of the passer by who ignores the plight of their fellow man.
    I will check out your recommendations.. Thanks Ryhen.
    In peace, Gary

  17. Hi Gary,
    When 'snuff films' draw more attention that living... the focus of society is on death and not life.
    Our advantage here, is being able to view the video, but it's after the crime has ocurred. 'We' have just watched a man be murdered.

    I was once a witness to man being pistol-whipped with a 357 magnum. But I didn't see the gun until the bad guy stuck it in my face and told me to leave. You see I stopped my car, thinking to help the guy on the ground, not realising a crime was happening. I went two blocks, found a phone to call police; then returned to the scene.
    Once there I held three bath towels against his forehead to control the massive bleeding. His blood filled a pothole in the road.
    My point is: you never know what you will do until it happens to you. Do-over, I might have run the bad guy down with my car. I certainly never would have stopped. A 357 is nothing (for me) to play with.
    So while I understand your post and applaud your efforts, I want you to also keep in mine: not everyone has the ablitity to deal with blood, crime, stress, court appearances,and other things.
    The bad guy's three lawyers were very clever. When you 'help' someone there might be more than the ocassional handshake as a follow-up. I received death threats, from the guy's friends and family, while standing in the courthouse hall. They took up two rows in the courtroom. I sat alone. And usually, that's exactly what it means to be a witness: you're alone. That's the big excuse and I understand today!

    Thank you bringing more awareness to society's needs.
    In peace and kindness, Dixie x

  18. Dear Dixie,
    A very harrowing recollection you have described. What an incredibly traumatic situation you found yourself caught up in.
    Of course, you are right, one does not know the possible repercussions of their actions. Yet, you are to be applauded for your humane act of kindness.
    The outrageous situation that you were subjected to in the courtroom as the witness trying to do their 'duty' as a decent, law-abiding citizen; is a sad reflection on the alleged justice system.
    I understand where you are coming from on this. It is not always a clear-cut choice.
    A very thought provoking response, Dixie. Some extremely profound points to ponder.
    With respect and kindness, Gary x

  19. I hear your sympathetic call to be humane to all of humanity and I am touched by your words, calling for the world to refrain from being judgmental and step away from the Apathetic boat.

    Like you, I feel there's always something in me that wants to be helpful no matter how a person comes across, especially when they are in dire need of help. And though sometimes, I don't feel equipped to help them in any big way, I guess the littlest gesture still counts.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Gary, it was really an insightful post.

    Sending good thoughts your way..

  20. Hi Shanaz,
    Thank you for your kind response. I am truly grateful.
    This was a truly emotive subject. We do not know how we would react in certain situations.
    Yet, I sense you would attempt to aid a fellow human in need. Like you mention, just a small gesture of kindness can make all the difference.
    I have been in spontaneous situations. Times where I did not think of the consequences of my actions. One time I tackled a guy to the street who was being pursued by the police. When I think about it; I could have had some ongoing problems by doing such a thing, A reprisal by the person fleeing the police. I was lucky that nothing further came of it.
    So this is a very emotive subject. My blog was some of my thoughts in regards to the unfair labelling that some sections of our society have to endure.
    Thanks again, Shanaz. I send you peaceful thoughts, Gary :-)

  21. I think people shun the homeless for one main reason. Fear. Fear is born out of ignorance. Most of us don't understand the despair that can lead people to such a state.

    And most of us don't want to for there is maybe a little, 'There, but for the Grace of God, go I' as some of the comments illustrate.

  22. Hi John,
    Fear is certainly one of the key factors. I had to address my own fears and misconceptions when I worked for a homeless charity. It was a most profound experience and taught me that you cannot judge people by appearance alone.
    As others have noted here and I alluded to in my blog; life-changing, negative traumatic events can happen to anyone. It really is something to think about.
    Thanks John.
    Kind regards, Gary.


I do try to comment back to each commenter individually. However, I might have to shorten my replies or give a group thank you. That way, I can spend more time commenting on your blogs. Thank you and peace, my friend.