Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas for the Homeless—a Cardboard Bed

Every once in a while an article comes across my attention that simply astounds me with its approach. So it was when I opened a recent Guardian piece by Tash Reith-Banks, titled Creating cardboard beds for a more comfortable Christmas on the streets.

Indeed. A more comfortable Christmas, sleeping on cardboard.

But is it possible to make a difference to the lives of homeless people without fundraising or investment? Psychology graduate and former primary school teacher Elliot Lord has set about doing just that. Having worked on conservation and sustainable living projects in Ecuador and then with refugees in northern India, Lord realized that his home city, Wolverhampton, would benefit from some development work. He moved back to Wolverhampton and started Our Own Future, a community organization dedicated to creating opportunities for those who lack them and to solving social problems.

More than somewhat smugly, Lord claims “It’s a classic engineering start-point: find a problem, set out the limitations, create a solution.”

Wrong-oh, Elliot and I know you mean well, but it’s a monumental social start-point and end-point. One presumes a psychology graduate might notice that detail.

One start-point, some 40% of the homeless suffer mental health issues as well as financial and social deprivation. Start-point #2, have you ever slept rough in a northern climate? In the rain? England is a bit chillier than Ecuador or India. Start-point #3, most Brits have a hard time keeping their umbrellas under control, much less walk about the city with a cardboard bed under their arm. Just how does that work, Elliot?

Lord’s invention may save lives this winter; it will certainly bring comfort to those most in need of it.”

Well, one can but hope. Having said that, I guess ‘comfort’ is in the eye of the beholder. And don’t forget to insert tab C into slot A.

I once suggested, here in Prague, that the city run additional night-trams in winter from 11pm to 5am, to give the homeless a warm seat upon which to slump for six hours. That idea didn’t take off either, so I share your concerns, Elliot, if not your take on what the homeless need.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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