Name the day.
We don’t have a name for what happens to many homeless people in the first week in February.
Other low points in the year have a name. Blue Monday, the third Monday of January, when all your money has run out, but the January pay cheque has not yet arrived. It has a name. You feel abandoned and ostracised by the consumer world around you. An absolute low, powerless, stranded.
For one moment you might get a little bit of insight into what homeless people sleeping rough must feel every week.
This past week has been the equivalent of Blue Monday for many homeless people without a roof over their head. This is the week when many, if not most Christmas shelters will have closed. The good work done, some people pulled back into care, some into homes, some to relatives. A bit healthier, a bit of dental care, intensive work with their addictions. But not for all. For too many it is back to the reality of life on the street.
Staff in A&E say they can see the increase in homeless people beginning to appear again as other support is scaled down, but the numbers gets lost in the annual January backlog and queues for treatment. It’s not all flu and staff shortages.
This is the week when the newspapers move on to the next lifestyle cycle, the holiday promotions and supplements come out, the second wave diet guides and the countdown to Valentines Day.
Valentines Day, the 14th February, also happens to be the start of Lent this year when Christians give up something for 40 days, often food. Lent is not without a practical purpose since, until the 1960’s, this was when the stored winter food began to run out and a bit of fasting and sharing out was not just character building but necessary to ensure there would be enough to go around.
That’s another experience the homeless know all too well.
To draw attention to a particular day or a regular event it seems best to give it a name, so what should we call this time of the year? The day or reckoning when the homeless become invisible again, back on the street, out in all weather?
Leave your comments below, what should this day be called?
We’ll announce the best suggestions that most reflect the reality of the homeless experience at the Rethinking Homelessness programme on 7/8 March.