Do you have a safety net? Is it a rainy day fund, parents, a partner or perhaps a friend you trust with your life?
Last week I was lucky enough to attend a Spark Debate as part of Hot Source Norwich, on homelessness. With plenty of compassion and commitment in the room, it was Alex that really stood out. At 18 Alex found himself homeless after been chucked out by his parents.
Alex came from a really normal family and no one had told him about places to go for help, housing benefit or any of the other institutional or systemic safety nets we are lucky to have in our society. If Alex hadn’t spoken last Wednesday evening, you wouldn’t have known he’d been homeless and slept rough. He didn’t have the cliched shaggy beard, missing teeth or sleeping bag of the rough sleeper.
What struck me most of all though was his answer to what might have prevented his rough sleeping and what helped him. His responses are the hardest for a society or organisation to replicate. He cited luck and humanity! He met his girlfriend and others at the right time who helped him.
It reminded me of how easily people become homeless – and the luck or chance of having a safety net. I know that I could do literally anything and my dad would still take me in and bail me out. What must it feel like not to have that? How many of us never consciously realise that we take this for granted and the incredible sense of self, security, resilience and belonging it gives us? Without it, when things go wrong, they can go very wrong and very fast. And that’s down to luck.