It has been pointed out to me that, in addition to today being the UN International Day of the Girl, today is also World Homeless Day.
Homelessness is a blight that I have never had to face, and God willing I will never have to. But it is impossible to escape the everyday. I see rough sleepers on the streets of Southend and London, and it is heartbreaking to see.
When I was younger, I volunteered at the coffee bar of my local church in Warrington, and many local homeless would come in for a cup of tea or coffee — free of charge — and someone to talk to. These were people, with stories and lives of their own. I often think of the people I got to know there, and wonder what happened to them.
Here in Southend, the homeless are well served on a number of fronts. The Street Pastors, I know, do excellent work, and Del Thomas is a man with an abundance of compassion, and devoted to his work. I know their work is not always glamorous, but it is invaluable to those who are out on the streets.
We also have charities like the HARP, which does some absolutely fantastic work with those who find themselves homeless. There is always more demand than supply with this sort of help, but this is a local charity doing incredibly important work. If you are looking for a way to help the homeless, I know that donations to HARP are always put to good use.
It is important, as the weather starts to turn cold and we descend into winter, that we remember those who are out on the streets — and that there, but for the grace of God, go any of us.