For those of you who have known me for a few years, you will know that I've been living in London for roughly two years. London is a vastly different world to anything that I was used to back in the Welsh Valleys, but I've slowly but surely started making this place my home. The differences in behaviour, in the culture, the lifestyle and the scenery were all completely overwhelming to me. I loved that shops were now open late and the ease of public transport, but hated the fact that everything was so completely jam packed with people. I think the one thing that really hits me the most about living in London though, is the sheer amount of homeless people and the class divide.
Don't get me wrong, I am 100% aware that there are homeless people across the entirety of the UK. Across the world! London just seems to have such a high number of homeless people condensed into one place. I encounter people struggling every single day. I walk to Foyles on Charring Cross and there is this same little old man that I watch slowly wither away each week, I come out of Tottenham Court Road tube station and there is at least six different people - the same people that I see everyday - trying to keep warm. Homelessness isn't something new. This isn't something that's breaking news to people unfortunately, but it's something that upsets me so much. I try to give and help as much as I can, but there's only so much a person can do.
The reason I'm writing this blog post now, on my book blog, is something that happened to me on Friday last week. I was walking to the tube with a Waterstones bag full of books that I'd already read but was taking home with me; I needed to free up the cluttered desk. As I was walking, I saw a young man sat on the floor, his knees propped up and a book open in his hands completely immersed in his book. He had a little sign propped up on his feet saying:
'Any spare change would be appreciated, I'm trying to save £9.50 to buy a new book'
I walked past, got to the traffic lights and couldn't seem to bring myself to cross. I had a bag full of books that I'd already read, and the fact that this man was sat on the floor, feeling so very lonely, so cold and hungry and all he is asking for was £9.50 for a new book? It completely broke me. Why shouldn't he be able to have a new book? I walked back and stopped to talk to him. I asked him if he would like a new book, and he just looked up and ever so quietly said yes please. I pulled out my read and well-loved copy of Illuminae and gave it to him. He was so grateful for this and me being the awkward bod that I am just nodded and shuffled off.
This occurrence hammered home to me exactly how awful a situation homeless people are in. I know it might seem silly, something as trivial as a request for a book, but books are so damn important to me and it broke me to see that this poor guy couldn't afford food, toiletries, a bed but wanted a book. It made me so god damn angry at this government and at this country. How on earth are we, a first world country, failing people so badly? How has this happened? How can we have homeless people sat on the same street whilst a Ferrari blasts down the road? How is this OK and why is nothing being done about it? How can those in government right now sit there in all of their luxury whilst people are being denied their basic human rights?
I guess it takes something that you can 100% relate to and care about to make you feel completely differently about a situation. I already cared about the homeless, I already try and help as much as I can, but there was just something that was so close to home about this guy. Granted, there are probably some of you reading this thinking; 'Ha! You got fleeced mate' or 'Probably didn't even want a book, wanted money for blah, blah, blah...' But do you know what? I don't care. Maybe he didn't want the book. Maybe he wanted money. And if he got that money, he's entitled to do whatever he bloody well pleases with it, just like we do. But I hope he got the same amount of enjoyment out of that book that I did.
This took on more of a rant than I expected, and I hope this doesn't come across as holier than thou. I just felt so upset about this occurrence and this is just not OK. Something needs to change and that change needs to start now.