All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


Leave a comment

World Homeless Day: Thirteen ways you can help the homeless

In addition to being World Mental Health Day, today is also World Homeless Day; a day to draw attention to homeless people’s needs and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness.

To celebrate World Homeless Day 2013, I have decided to share thirteen ways in which you can help the homeless, most drawn from the five-years I spent as a person experiencing homelessness. This way, you have no excuse for not helping a homeless person on this most necessary (and often forgotten) of days! :)

DSCN0092

My ‘home’, circa 2010 | © Addy

1.  Educate yourself about homelessness
One of the first – and best – things you can do to help the homeless is find out who they really are. They may be someone who has lost their job, someone who is suffering from mental health problems or someone escaping an abusive relationship. They are rarely, if ever, the stereotype of the alcoholic-junkie who has chosen to be homeless that many people continue to believe in.

2. Donate money
This can either be given directly to a homeless person, or preferably via a charitable organisation whose soul aim is to assist the homeless. This money will then be used to provide food, clothing, emergency shelter and other necessary items, all of which go a long way to helping a homeless person on a day-to-day basis.

3. Give food
If a homeless person is asking you for money for food, why not offer to buy them a sandwich or some other foodstuff instead? It is a misconception that every beggar is looking for money for alcohol or drugs, many are simply hungry and will all-too-happily take you up on your generous offer. And remember: if you offer someone a ‘big mac’ and they refuse, they may not be lying to get money out of you, they may simply be a vegetarian or someone who doesn’t like red-meat (see item 12, below)

4.Donate clothing
Never underestimate the importance of a clean pair of socks or deliciously warm jacket. If you’re not comfortable donating money or food, why not donate clothing (or some new pairs of socks) to your local homeless organisation. These are items that are always required and will be most gratefully received.

5. Donate groceries
Homeless charities are always looking for donations of good quality, non-perishable foodstuffs. So why not organise a bag or box and donate them to your local food bank? Better yet, if you work for a food manufacturer, perhaps consider organising a regular donation to assist those most in need.

6. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or soup van
Virtually every major town and city in the world has a soup kitchen or van of some description. Why not take a few hours out of your week to volunteer at one (or both) of these. You’ll not only be nourishing a homeless person’s stomach, but nourishing their soul with your kindness.

7. Buy the Big Issue (or if you’re in the US, Street Sheet)
These magazines are sold by homeless people in virtually every major city. As well as being a cracking read, a percentage of every issue sold goes directly to the homeless person selling them. What could be better than that?

8. Organise a fund-raising event
Why not organise a charity event through your local school or business to help raise funds for your local homeless services. Car boot sales, raffles, trivia nights or cake stalls are always well received by the community, even more so when people know their time and money is going toward such a worthwhile cause.

9. Volunteer your services
Are you a doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Psychiatrist? A homeless person may require some or all of these services, so why not donate your time to offer your professional services to those who are most in need of it?

10. Educate yourself as to what services are available in your area
Every town and city have organisations whose specific aim is to assist the homeless. If you were to find out where these organisation were and how they helped (i.e. whether it is with food, emergency housing, counseling etc.) you will be able to pass this on to a homeless person as and when the situation arises. Remember, just because they are homeless does not mean they are aware of all the services available to them. Some may just need a helping hand to get their life together again.

11. Don’t ignore a homeless person
Walking past a homeless person and pretending they are not there is cold, callous and shows them a complete lack of respect. Simply acknowledging their presence will be showing them a level of respect that they rarely, if ever, receive.

12. Treat a homeless person as the unique individual they are
Many people continually refer to homeless people as the homeless; a term that strips them off their uniqueness as a human being. A homeless person is just like you, your friends or family members. They have loves, passions, hopes, dreams, aspirations and everything else in between. So why not treat them as the unique and wonderful human being they are?

13. Talk to them
Quite possibly the simplest item on this list, but is still the one many people forget about. A homeless person is not only starved of food and shelter, they are also starved of human contact. The simple act of talking to them will most likely make their day in ways you couldn’t even begin to imagine! :)

RSCN0175

This moment – which saw me realise a life-long dream of hugging a wombat – was taken the same day as the photograph above. It would never have happened without the kindness of the wombat’s keeper, who treated me like a unique individual instead of just another one of ‘the homeless’, | © Addy

A selection of other articles I’ve written about homelessness:


1 Comment

Addy’s Best of 2012: The Best Surprise of the Year

In addition to the Mental Health Month Challenge I have decided to undertake a more light-hearted challenge this month that I discovered on Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges. Each day in December I will be issuing an award in celebration of everything 2012, continuing with…

The Best Surprise of the Year

~ No longer homeless ~

Home

By far and away the biggest surprise of 2012 was the moment I received a phone call from a real estate agency offering me a unit. After three years of living in parks, urine soaked alleys and perfecting my best ‘living under a bridge’ troll impression, I firmly believed the only way I would escape homelessness would be to die.

Throughout those long years the constant stream of rejections I received from rental applications, employers and society in general had made me believe I was destined to exist on the streets for the remainder of my life. I had worked myself to the bone on a daily basis, never experiencing anything other than continuous pain on both a physical and mental level.

When that phone call came in late February I had all but given up and resigned myself to my deserved fate.

For the first several days after I moved in I was sleeping on the floor of my ‘bedroom’. After Vinnies kindly donated me a bed, I continued sleeping on the floor for several weeks as I was trapped in the mindset of a homeless person. I didn’t believe I deserved a bed, a home or any of the changes that I’d managed to create for myself.

Over time, I slowly began to settle. I moved from the floor to the bed, I began sitting on the couch rather than the floor and began listening to the radio instead of staring into space. But I continued believing I was homeless, locked into that way of thinking after years of trauma.

For this is the one aspect of homelessness people do not understand.

It is not a case of just finding somewhere to live and that person will miraculously fix every aspect of their life. Homelessness is more than not having a home; it is a way of life, a trap that once you’ve fallen into is immensely difficult to escape from as you have to re-learn all of the social skills that have been forgotten throughout your homeless life.

Nine months later I still think of myself as homeless. I don’t feel settled and I continue to believe that homelessness is, and will always be, my future. In spite of the advances I have made over the last several months those years continue to haunt me on a daily basis, making hope for the future something impossible to believe in.

However, compared to where I was this time last year, I’m in a much better place and have a far greater chance of being someone again.

As long as I continue working (and fighting) for a better future as fervently as I have been these last few years :)

~ If you’d like to see some photos of the interior of my house, you can right here! ~

~ Runners up for ‘The Best Surprise of the Year’ award ~

*SPOILER WARNING*
The following video is the closing moments of Dexter Season 6.
Do not watch this video if you plan on watching this season!

 


9 Comments

Saturday 9: Key Largo

Saturday 9 is a weekly blogging meme hosted by Crazy Sam Winters (she added the crazy, not me!).

Every Saturday there will be nine questions – sometimes they will be around a common theme, other times completely random – to be answered however we like.

1) This song was inspired by the Bogart/Bacall movie of the same name. Do you have a favorite Humphrey Bogart film? 

Although far from my favourite Hepburn movie, Sabrina is one of the few Bogart movies I can remember seeing. Plus, Billy Wilder :)

2) Where do you rent movies? (Netflix, Redbox, OnDemand, etc.)

When I can afford to do so, I rent my movies from a little known service called a DVD rental store. Back in the day, they used to be rather popular. You could roam the shelves checking out movie after movie, indulge yourself in holding the DVD cover in your hand to peruse the synopsis and stills, spend some time debating whether the cleavage shot is really necessary (yes, Sleepy Hollow back cover, I’m looking at you!) and ask the staff cunning questions to find out just how knowledgeable they are in the realm of film and television.

3) Have you ever been to the Florida Keys?

I have never been to the Florida Keys. In fact, I’ve never stepped foot on American soil in my life. The closest I came was the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Perhaps one day I shall visit, but in all honesty, the Florida Keys would be very low on my list of places to visit. (No offense to anyone in the Florida Keys intended :p)

4) According to government statistics, more than half the people who currently live in Florida were born in another state. Were you born in the state where you currently live?

I was not. I was born in a rather random town in Northern England called Leeds. I lived there for only a few months before we moved when my father got a new job, never to return.

5) To be honest, Crazy Sam really hates this week’s featured song. (Hear it here.) Do you like it? Loathe it? Or are you unfamiliar with it?

I do not know the song or artist. However, he has a remarkably entertaining beard :)

6) Local authorities in a suburb of Sydney blasted Barry Manilow songs into a neighborhood park to keep “hooligans” away after dark. Is there an artist or song that would make you run in the other direction?

New life goal: discover what suburb of Sydney this is so I can move there and begin crooning every night. Barry Manilow rocks!

However, if they were to start playing this song, I would run a country mile without ever looking back:

See also the Paul McCartney’s The Frog Song.

7) Two of the most common fears are going to the dentist and speaking in public. Do either of those really get under your skin?

Given I am open in suffering with social anxiety disorder, I am not afraid of dentists and speaking in public; I have an outright phobia about them! I would rather lock myself into a room playing the above song on repeat for an entire year than go anywhere near these two.

8) We’re having burgers. What do you want on yours?

The burger would have to be chicken breast, for I am not a fan of red meat in any way, shape or form. Toppings? Some crisp lettuce, pineapple, a sprinkling of cheese and a dash of bbq sauce would be lovely, thank you.

9) Here’s your chance to do a shameless plug. What charity or cause do you wish got more support?

“I once heard a story about a homeless man on Hollywood Blvd who really thought he was invisible. But one day a kid handed the man a Christian pamphlet. The homeless guy was shocked and amazed, “what! You can see me? How can you see me? I’m invisible!”

It isn’t hard to comprehend this man’s slow spiral into invisibility. Once on the street, people started to walk past him, ignoring him as if he didn’t exist… much like they do a piece of trash on the sidewalk. It’s not that people are bad, but if we make eye contact, or engage in conversation, then we have to admit they exist and that we might have a basic human need to care. But it’s so much easier to simply close our eyes and shield our hearts to their existence.

The purpose of this vlog is to make the invisible visible. I hope these people and their stories connect with you and don’t let go. I hope their conversations with me will start a conversation in your circle of friends. These are the real people, telling their own, very real stories… unedited, uncensored and raw.

The invisible guy didn’t intend to become homeless. I didn’t plan on living on the street. Everyone on the streets has their own story, some made bad decisions, others were victims, but none of them deserve what they have been left with, and it is a reflection of our own society that we just leave them there.

Please always remember, the homeless people you’ll ignore today were much like you not so long ago.”

from InvisiblePeople.tv


2 Comments

Hug a Homeless Person Day

I’ve just realised an obvious problem in my decision to take on the WordPress Daily prompts as a challenge throughout November. Being in Australia, I will always be a day ahead (or a day behind, depending on your perspective), as new prompts are posted in US time.

The lateness of this post comes from hoping WordPress would post their 1 November update in time for me to write something, but alas, they did not. Thus, for my 1 November post I’m answering the prompt for 31 October. Whereas tomorrow I will answer the 1 November prompt, and so on.

Only tomorrow I will answer the prompt much earlier as I’m so sleepy at the moment I can barely keep my eyes open!

Invent a holiday! Explain how and why everyone should celebrate.

If I could invent a holiday it would be Hug a Homeless Person Day. Whether they are real life bear hugs, online {{HUGS}} or hug-like acts of donating time to volunteer with homeless services; showing you care about the homeless is all that’s required to celebrate this day.

With homelessness an ever-increasing problem more needs to be done to help those unfortunate enough to find themselves in this predicament, so why not form a holiday to help those individuals too often forgotten within our society?

For years I slept in parks, alleys, storm drains and doorways, never once receiving any form of human contact. Throughout those long, lonely years I became withdrawn and disconnected from society. I forgot what it meant to be loved or cared about and became ostracised from society at large. The hardest part of trying to regain my life is trying to relearn all the basic communication skills I forgot throughout my homelessness. Skills that would never have been lost if society treated the homeless as human beings instead of animals.

On any given day a hug would have made all the difference. It would have proved to me that I was visible. That even though I was in the direst of situations there were people out there who cared. The simple act of someone sitting down to talk to me, to take an interest in my personality rather than their preconceived stereotypes, would have given me hope. Hope that I, like many, found so hard to hold onto.

No-one chooses to be homeless. So why is society ignoring the plight of those most in need of support? We have holidays to gather candy, to celebrate horse races, ignite the sky with fireworks, commemorate monarchs and feast on chocolate eggs…so why no holiday to care about those less fortunate?


3 Comments

6 Places…

A rather open ended prompt for today’s installment of the challenge. Six places I love? Six places I hate? Six places I want to visit? What sort of places are they referring to?

Harumph.

Okay, I suppose I shall have to be all decisive and choose for myself…

~ All photographs © Addy ~


5 Comments

No home, no life, no love, no stranger singing in your name.

This post was originally written for my blog The Secret Diary of a Homeless Romantic  as my journal entry for 16 September 2010. At the time I was rough sleeping in Melbourne and trying to hold onto what little shred of sanity I had left in spite of discrimination and the ever-present loneliness.

I’ve chosen this post as my voice from the past this Monday for two reasons. One, because it’s an entry I’ve always been quite happy with (a rarity for my writing) and two, the Time to Change research mentioned in the post is a disturbing reminder of the stigma attached to those with mental health problems and deserves to be remembered.

Note: This post was imported from the now-deceased aforementioned blog so all images, links and comments remain as a record of that moment in time and place.

Blanket soldier

Not me. Just a look-a-like.

My day began at about 5am when I dragged myself from the concrete,  cleaned my blankets and secreted them away into their usual hiding place.

The bathroom called before my basic morning yoga routine (I stress basic) produced all sorts of odd looks. Seriously, a homeless man performing yoga in the park – I should charge!  I had my shower, argued with myself and then found a two dollar coin nestled on the grey asphalt.

Woohoo!

It’s not often I find money that’s gold in colour. Usually it’s silver, and the smallest denomination at that, but this find meant I could purchase some foodstuffs for breakfast. Aware a restaurant chain is currently offering $2 bacon and egg sandwiches before 11am I strolled into town in the hope I would be settled in front of ABC News 24 (at Federation Square) without a growling belly this morning.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. As soon as I entered I was asked to leave, apparently this particular chain doesn’t serve the homeless.

When the library opened I was able to Tweet and Facebook my frustration:

This am was refused $2 brekky & told to leave shop. I’ll quote: “You know yr homeless. We don’t want troublemakers like you in here,” Nice!

and fortunately was not alone in being pissed off! The greatest response came from Facebook, where I was told that:

You seem too intelligent to be a bum. Things happen tho. Your thoughts and writing are cool & you take awesome photos. :)

I’m fully aware the person who wrote it didn’t mean anything other than being nice, so I’m not angry with them in any way – but it does come across as a little, umm, yeah. What does intelligence have to do with homelessness?

Also, I don’t mind the term hobo (reminds me of the show The Littlest Hobo, yay!) but I HATE the word bum.

Bums are for sitting on, kissing, squeezing and spanking.

Do you see anyone sitting on, kissing, squeezing or spanking me? Sadly, no. Thus, I am not a bum. When someone does start doing these things I will happily refer to myself as a bum ;p Until then you may refer to me as either homeless, hobo, awesome, spankable or all of the above.

Anyway, as it turned out today seemed to be the day for discrimination as I also discovered that most people would rather date someone they weren’t attracted to than someone with a mental illness!

More people in England would turn down a date with someone who had a mental illness (57%) if they were single and looking for love online than someone they found unattractive (44%) or someone without the same interests (43%), a new survey as part of the Time to Change campaign addressing mental health prejudice has found.

Also, people with a mental health problem are more likely to be turned down for a second date if they reveal they have a mental illness (44%) than those who disclose they have been in prison (42%), have a physical health problem (19%) or are unemployed (18%).

So basically, I was refused food from a company whose sole purpose is to sell food to hungry people and then moments later found out it’s unlikely I’ll ever be in a relationship again. Cracking start to the day! As I continued reading the article I also discovered it’s unlikely I’ll ever get accommodation:

The survey also looked at flatsharing and revealed 60% of us would not want to rent a room to someone with a mental health problem, more than three times as many as who would say no to someone with a physical health problem (18%).

This is far more annoying than the comment posted to my Facebook account or being discriminated against by the restaurant chain.

I’m not trying to be arrogant when I say this, but I believe I’m a good guy. I’m caring, compassionate, generous and passionate. Granted I’m not a comedian (unless you appreciate extremely dry usually need carrots to see through it dark comedy) but I do have a very twisted, generous and imaginative mind. I’m also very much a downer than a downee, which should surely make up for some of the points lost on the mental illness, or am I clutching at straws there?

Yet purely because I suffer from mental health problems it’s unlikely anyone of the opposite sex would give me the time of day let alone prove this to them. In other words, in order to stand a chance of having an honest and loving relationship I would need to lie from the very start; bit of a contradiction, no?

Argh!

So I spent the rest of the day listening to the same Foo Fighters album on repeat. I’d never heard a Foo Fighters album before but a Twitter-Friend recommended them and I’ve become addicted.

Especially this track:

Which just makes me think of two words: road trip!

She’s driving, I’m in the passenger seat. She’s in jeans and a tee, I’m in board shorts. I’m feeding her gummi-bears (or grapes, depending on her taste preference), she’s telling me they’re all hers and I’m not allowed any. The music’s blaring, the sun’s blazing, the road’s endless and we don’t care. It’s all just too damn fun :D

Sure it’s a dream, but given I learned today I’ll never have a relationship and won’t be allowed to eat in one of my favourite restaurant chains until I get a home from one of the 40% who won’t discriminate against me, am I not allowed to dream from time to time?

Related Articles (as chosen on 16 September 2010):
Related Articles (as chosen today, 24 September 2012):