Tag Archives: vulnerable

Food for Thought

homeless-robbie-from-preston I am someone who likes the feeling of fullness. I am always eating. I buy food for one so I am guilty of contributing to our massive problem of food waste.

While I scoff myself and throw half-eaten food away, others are so starving that they dig into bins for something to eat.

I am talking about the “hidden homeless” that we walk past every day. I recently saw a programme about this desperate group of people called “Where am I sleeping tonight?”. The hidden homeless are not registered as homeless and therefore do not receive additional support. Those that sofa-surf (sleep on friends’ sofas) or sleep on the streets because they feel safer there than in hostels.

Research by the homeless charity Crisis indicates that as many as 62% of the homeless fit this category. For every month that the respondents spent in accommodation provided by the council, they had spent over three months sleeping rough.

There are estimated to be 1 700 hidden homeless people a year. The documentary really opened my eyes to something I had no idea about in my sheltered existence (literally). They lived with so little, not knowing where they would sleep at the end of the day or whether they would be safe. They were completely dependent on the goodwill of others just to stay alive.

homeless 2

It could have happened to any one of us if we had been less fortunate.

One boy of just 17 had struggled with anger-management issues and had beaten up his family until he got kicked out. He wished he could turn back time or that they could see how he had changed.

Another boy had fallen out with his mother, who then moved away leaving him with his grandmother. She fell out with him so he had to go. He said he hadn’t eaten for about a week and his eyes bulged with ravenous desperation as he waited in line for food, white as a sheet.

A girl was sofa-surfing as a messy divorce had made home hell. She said it had been friends at first, then friends of friends and then people she did not know at all. One man had tried to make a move on her and she had to find somewhere else to stay that night.

These vulnerable young people seemed to have little or no chance of escaping the endless cycle of hunger, cold and sleep deprivation.

Once someone I knew did a sponsored rough sleep for a homeless charity and he said it was he hardest thing he had ever done. He did it at the start of winter and he didn’t sleep at all because he was so cold in his sleeping bag and the concrete was so uncomfortable. homeless

The programme got me thinking. Surely there is something we can do to share the wealth. I have been brought up with everything and I take basic needs like food and shelter forgranted.

I have given food to beggars before. Just extra food that I will not eat or snacks like cereal bars. They are always gratefully accepted.

But I want to do more.

I am planning on buying a full lunch for a homeless person so they can at least have one proper meal that day.

I will get a sandwich, a flapjack (more filling than crisps) and some fruit. Perhaps a hot drink to go with it.

I want to start a movement like the famous “Pay It Forward” one. This one involves buying food for the needy. Some incredible people already do.

So how about you join us, reader, and buy a homeless person a sandwich.

If you do it let me know how it feels. When I have donated before I have always felt content. It is a feeling that only helping someone in need can bring. A deep satisfaction that you are making a small difference in an indifferent world. The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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Filed under Food, Life of Lydia

Thieving “carers”

Firstly, apologies that I haven’t written for a while – my creative energies are currently being directed towards a novel I’m writing. It’ll take several years to complete but I will let you know if it gets published.

From 2012-2013 there were just under a million cases of personal property theft according to the British Crime Survey. Yesterday I saw CCTV footage of a stealing personal assistant in the news and it upset me. It was even worse that the victim had only just come out of hospital. Sadly when I searched for the topic “CCTV stealing carer” many videos came up, including someone caught red handed and the mobile phone footage of the parent. Both ladies I’ve worked for have been victims of this crime. Unless the amounts are large, compensation is the most common outcome. However I think a jail sentence is necessary to teach them a lesson. This was given to a carer who stole £35,000 over four years from a couple.

They make an example out of cannabis growers, why shouldn’t they make an example out of those who steal from the people they are supposed to help? However, the criminals will not be able to work in the care industry and will probably struggle to get a job now, which is something. This is why if you think it is happening to you you must get video evidence and report it. Don’t leave them with a blank Criminal Records Bureau check so they can target someone else. The psychological scars it causes can be long-lasting.

Sadly it is difficult to stop this from happening – to scratch beneath the surface of someone at interview and see whether they have a good conscience. I wonder what makes these people feel entitled to stealing money from those who need it most. Some have suggested that if carers were paid more this might not happen. But I don’t think this is the case. It’s not desperation that leads these people to steal, it’s something that psychologists term “neutralisation” – thieves override their conscience with a justification that neutralises the guilt. In a 1984 study of American shoplifters researchers found that this was how they justified their criminal activity:

– If I am careful and smart, I will not get caught.
– Even if I do get caught, I will not be turned in and prosecuted.
– Even if I am prosecuted, the punishment will not be severe. – (when compensation is all that is ordered, I expect this is a motivation)
– The merchants deserve what they get.
– Everybody, at some time or another, has shoplifted; therefore it’s ok for me to do it.
– Shoplifting is not a major crime.
– I must have the item I want to shoplift or if I want it, I should have it.
– It is okay to shoplift because the merchants expect it.

The carer may have taken £20 per week rather than the whole amount in her employer’s purse because she thought that in small amounts it would not be spotted. The thieves obviously see those who they care for as soft targets. Perhaps she was also greedy – the Chanel handbag on the thief’s arm as she walked out of court seemed to suggest that. When I worked as a legal secretary we advised a girl who had stolen from her parents. She showed no remorse and merely worried what the sentence would be. Both the lady who stole £35,000 and this girl bought luxury items with the proceeds, leading one to think that, again, self-indulgence is a strong motivation.

My moral conscience is secure. I would never think that stealing was acceptable. When I looked after an elderly lady I was shocked to hear about her experiences. She was naturally very distrustful of anyone new and was worried whenever I had to run errands in her bedroom without her there. She had been the victim of hoax callers pretending to check her television was working who then stole from her. She had also been the victim of a carer who had stolen things while in her bedroom. When she was in hospital she had her wedding ring taken. She had resorted to carrying a pouch around her wrist with her valuables in and when she went into hospital she wouldn’t let anyone take it off her. She wouldn’t let me have a front door key, so when her door jammed and she couldn’t get out of her bedroom, I had to ring her son, frightened that something had happened to her during the night.

I dread to think of the care I will receive if I ever have to have home help, after hearing what she continuously went through. I asked her why she didn’t report it and she said she had no evidence and didn’t want to cause trouble. This was of course the reason that Lynette Nardone had to pay £1,000 for a CCTV security system as she didn’t feel safe in her own home. A CRB check won’t necessarily help either – whilst they do deter those that have been caught, they will not stop those who have escaped the law or first-time opportunists.

Shopping Errands – Preventing Access To Your Cash

Must we all have CCTV fitted in our homes? If you do have home help I would recommend doing this if a carer has to do shopping for you:

– tell them you will pay them afterwards and make it clear that you will only pay them back if they show the receipt. If they have a contract try and make sure there is a clause covering this in it or get them to sign a statement to this effect if possible

– ask for their bank details so you can make a transfer online when they are away

or if this is not possible:

– have some money ready

– ask to see the receipt

– ask them to leave the room and shut the door while you get the money out

Unfortunately it is impossible to tell who you can trust and who you can’t. It took many months for my employer to trust me after what she had been through. It is probably best to assume the worst.

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Filed under Advice, Life of Lydia, News Comment