The Homeless, As and Bs

By Aneesah, 3 Dec 13

First, a few Facebook status updates just to get us up to speed:

20 October 2013

Sometimes #thelittlethings dawn on you a bit later than the experience itself.

Last Friday night, I joined a little activity called an outreach, with two other girls from our society. Basically we go to town to find homeless persons and talk to them and hand them some sandwiches and/or soup if they’d like some.

I didn’t have any expectations of the experience, but overall it was quite enlightening and good; we met around fourteen men and two dogs (there were definitely more people, but we ran out of sandwiches) and the event was over in an hour.

One of the things I realised by the second stop was that unlike Louise, I felt very awkward sitting directly on the pavement surface and ended up semi-squatting (in semi-discomfort) while Louise chatted to the man. It really struck me — these people are not only forced to sit on the streets, but lie and sleep on them too.

And the real realisation came to me a minute ago while listening to a tafseer talk — it is a true sign of humility, bringing yourself down to the ground’s surface. It’s where people walk, it’s where your shoes are supposed to be in contact with; nothing more. Sadly, many of us don’t realise or embody the state of humility we are supposed to be in when we make sujood in our solah. T-T

Perhaps it’s our lush decorated prayer mat, or our air-conditioned 12th floor apartment that takes away the essence of putting yourself in your lowest state before your Lord. Maybe that is why praying outdoors brings such a sense of … rejuvenation yet familiarity, being amongst nature.

Anyhow, may Allah grant us all khushoo’ and constant reminders of our position in this world and of all His incredible blessings. Ameen.

2 December 2013

Sometimes we don’t pay enough attention to people, and what they say, and who they are… until they’re gone.

Kisah ‪#‎letsfollowammar‬ is one example, but in today’s society meeting came the news of Dale, a local homeless person who passed away in a public toilet reportedly from internal bleeding five days after having been assaulted while he was sleeping.

I met Dale once a few weeks ago during an outreach with the girls. I remember where he sat, and the injury on his face, and I think we gave him a pair of hand-knitted gloves, too. But I can’t remember much of what he said and shared. I wish I remembered. I wish I did.

Basically, another thing that is new for me this term (other than taking up Mandarin hee) is that I joined a society on campus that aims to reach out to the local homeless people and raise awareness of the issue as a whole. It’s been very fun, interesting, and fulfilling to put some effort towards a good cause and feel the difference you’re making (even within yourself). Anyhow, I am going to share a short write-up / report intended to be for the society blog, but unfortunately due to a tiny hiccup, we’re not publishing it there for now. Happy reading:

Monday Meeting: Debate on “Outreaches on the Streets”

On Monday the 21st of October, we held our usual weekly meeting in Keynes. The main agenda for the night was to debate or discuss the benefits vs. harms of actually giving food to the homeless as part of outreaches. The premise came from an article written by Mark Horvath, founder of Invisible People.

Mark brings up several main points in his piece, namely:

  1. Incidents where several distinct parties or churches regularly provide food to the same homeless individuals, without any coordination nor collaboration, resulting in wastefulness and very little impact towards solving the issue of homelessness in the long run. Mark claims that such parties enable the homeless to remain in their situation by providing food as the motivator.
  2. The above point leads to a disconnect between the homeless and established homeless services that provide facilities as well as food. These services aim to establish relationships that will help the individuals to get back on their feet.
  3. Mark also points out the issue of lack of regulation on the food being fed to homeless people and how this can lead to health and safety problems.
  4. He calls for more effective, win-win efforts where agencies are able to use funds from the well-intentioned public towards finding housing, jobs and health services for the homeless.

When I first heard of the claim that feeding homeless people is a bad thing, which was the Friday before when Louise mentioned it – my reaction was of aghast disbelief. The thought that I, and several others in the meeting had, was that food is the bare minimum that one needs in order to stay alive. The sandwiches and soup that are typically given out in outreaches are far from the filling, three-course meal that one has in a restaurant for dinner.

However, after reading Mark’s article and talking to a friend of mine – we call him Kay – my mind was opened to the real point: that there needs to be more effort and focus towards a long-term solution for the homeless, alongside the temporary measures to help them and to help establish a connection with them.

Kay is a regular contributor in charity outreaches and programmes in Malaysia. I shall share a translated summary of his message to me in response to Mark’s article, in hopes that this will shed some light on the issue too:

What I can conclude is that there are two types of people who are trying to help the homeless:

A)     People who help sincerely, but with the aim of doing a good deed or a charitable act.

B)      People who help sincerely and with love, meaning they will do all that they can for the cause.

There are lots of As. As come and go, and they will contribute according to their whims. Most of these are the Average Joes: easy to find but difficult to keep around.

Bs are few and far in between. Once a B starts his efforts, he will make it a regular routine because he feels a certain sense in himself that forces him to take action, which can be called responsibility. They will try their best to help because they see the issue of homelessness as a problem that requires a solution.

Giving food may not be the main solution, but it is a stepping stone towards obtaining a series of solutions for them. Just like regular people who invite others for a meal in order to get to know them better, this is what Bs are doing. Bs are trying to build relationships and getting to know the homeless in order to find out what solutions are most suitable for them: they try to give them options because they treat them like humans who can choose and have rights too.

We ought to have more Bs and not just remain an A.

Kay then reiterates the fact that As can spoil the efforts of Bs and inadvertently encourage the homeless to rely on As for food and money, which unfortunately feeds into the perception that homeless people are “a ‘lazy’ lot who do not put effort into improving their lives”.

I definitely agree with Kay, and personally see my joining this society (and the consequent steps) as a starting point to my journey of becoming a B. Hopefully we can all take what we gain from this year and share it with others in order to raise awareness of the various intricacies of homelessness as a global issue.

During the meeting, we brought up several more points such as:

  1. How the issue of food safety can be addressed without banning or preventing public feeding entirely.
  2. The issues within and imperfection of local homeless charity services – despite the great work they do, some of the rules and measures taken unwittingly cause a detachment with sections of the homeless people.
  3. The decision to put effort towards running outreaches as an official group: the main stumbling block we face is the cost of required training, but we see this as an investment towards moving forward in the long term with greater plans and activities.

The debate and discussions surrounding it definitely put some new thoughts into my mind. Special thanks to Mark, Kay and all those who came to the meeting!

What do you think?

I think...