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  • Writer's pictureBen Westwood

Acknowledging homeless stories. Here's why I'm all for a change in perception and the system.

Those of you that have been keeping tabs on some of the recent drama in my life unfolding recently might just be wondering why I'd even followed my 'Facebook friend' turned stalker in the first place. The truth is though, he'd had some valid points about the homeless system and some of the changes that need to be made in it which is why both I'd supported him and others had given him a platform to speak about it.

Recently I've been going through some of my old videos on my old Youtube channel, in which a certain couple of videos I'd made private for years due to the video quality, but perhaps what's inside the audio is enough.

The videos are 9 years old at this current point and were made a long time before I'd written Poems From a Runaway and had shared publicly much about my life growing up on the streets as a teenager. But these videos refer more to my adult life experiencing homelessness. Here's part one and two of my old videos from October 2013. ***PLEASE SEE BOTTOM OF PAGE IN CURRENT-DAY CORRECTIONS OF STATEMENT IN VIDEOS REGARDING SQUATTING (Re: Changes in law since video)

In these videos I talk about the topics and issues about, employment and the homeless, the standards of hostels ran by homeless charities and organisations, practical problems faced by the homeless living somewhat outside of the system.

Here I ask the questions, is the support system for the homeless really working? There are some amazing charities and organisations doing some fantastic work that often struggle to get funding, but as time has gone on I believe the corruption and misuse of government money in the name of helping the homeless as well as care-leavers has only grown further as people become more desperate to keep themselves in jobs. It's a shame to see somebody that I believed was a genuine advocate for the homeless completely turn on me, but maybe one day he'll change his ways and do us proud, who knows. The truth is though, is there are many advocates out there for homelessness, especially as everyone has a different story.

Homelessness isn't bound to one type of person from one type of area. Perhaps by acknowledging the homeless more and listening to their stories we can not only understand better how government money can be misused at time, but perhaps we can understand ourselves better as a society, and understand better our own levels of empathy on an individual level.

However, it's fair to say that most homeless people barely have a voice, and often if they do it can be filtered or used in the name of fundraising and the like, which isn't always a bad thing but I think the genuine inclusion of homeless people both in policy decision making and on a more personal and connective level is something that can only help the world thrive better if we embrace it.

For all of the perception that homeless people are simply strugglers and might not have the same levels of experience in certain jobs or careers, perhaps instead homeless people can be looked at in a way which provides insights into life from a whole new level. Perhaps if we'd heard the stories of those from the fringes more we'd soak in their warnings and society wouldn't have to suffer as much. But left ignored it grows, and before you know it it's sort of a normal thing in society that once had been only found in the shadowy world of dimly-lit alleyways of the city streets at 4am. Many people only hear the stories of exploitation and shocking predatory behaviour once the media or some Youtube star or podcaster has picked up on it. All the time though, those stories about what goes on the world of homelessness were already there, just few listened. Anyhow, I'm going way off track now, but my point is, perhaps by concentrating on building a system that helps the homeless but helps them feel less institutionalised is the way forward. Just saying. Peace ***note - Please not the law has change regarding squatting in residential premises which is no legal. There are other options regarding commercial premises but please seek proper legal advice from experienced and legitimate UK websites regarding the laws on squatting.

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