'You can't explain what war really is to someone who has never been there, just as you can't explain green to a blind person, or a man can't know what it's like to give birth. They simply don't have the necessary sensory organs. You can't explain or understand war - all you can do is experience it.'
This is a quote from One Soldier's War in Chechnya by Arkady Babchenko as featured in the Independent magazine on Saturday.
My experiences of war (when the US invaded Grenada in 1983) are very different, but I do know exactly what he means with this quote.
I would say the same is true for any major traumas - bereavement, for example.
You have to live it to know it.
'Who feels it, knows it,' Bob Marley once sang.
Or what about homelessness?
Anyone who has never been forced to sleep on the streets - fending for themselves, living with the dangers, the isolation, the scorn of those who cannot know - has a unique experience.
Luckily we have the technology to enable the voices of people who are usually dismissed or ignored to be heard.
We may not know how it really feels to live life on the margins, but we no longer have any excuse for not listening when we are told by those who do know.
I posted here about plans to make soup runs for homeless people illegal.
Almost immediately there was a comment.
Someone calling themselves Homeless Chicken responded angrily, assuming I had no experiences in my own life which would enable me to understand the complexities of life on the streets.
It would have been so easy for us to be polarised.
HC could have dismissed me as a patronising liberal do-gooder and I could have taken a smug and superior stance that would have placed each of us firmly on opposite sides of the barricades.
Instead we began a dialogue based on mutual respect.
You see, I wanted to hear what HC had to say and felt it was crucial to hear his or her voice.
I wanted others to hear too and was glad that my blog gave HC a platform for their words.
I don't know this Chicken.
Until recently I didn't even know his or her gender (I now know you are a woman, HC.)
Anyone reading her comments may have had an picture in their mind and I'll bet that image was of a white guy in his 20s or 30s - probably a drug user.
But I posted here last year about Emily - a Jamaican Big Issue seller in her 80s.
There is no homeless stereotype, only homeless PEOPLE.
In case you haven't been following HC's comments on the original post, here are some of the things she has said that we really should be listening to.
HC on survival of the fittest
... the first rule when using soup runs in London,is GRAB NOT,GET NOT..by this i mean its the strongest who survive,some people get loads of stuff, some nothing at all,there are many times,the run runs out of soup,bread,sandwiches,tea,coffee,clothes,and mentioning clothes, you be surprised the amount of people who grab clothes,only to sell on their market stall the next day,this causes lots of friction,we call them the plastic homeless,they look the the part, but are not..as you say homelessness comes in many shapes and forms, and their are lots of impostors as well. 6.43pm Nov 3rd
HC on donated food
the food which is given out at "HANDOUTS" which are called soup run,s,we see lots of stuff, coming out big supermarkets,surplus,end of sale date,etc..and is given to us free..
Should be a homeless hostel resident,okay housing benefit pays rent etc, but breakfast, dinner, if your lucky,and evening meal you have to pay for out of your benefit noney,there is a organisation called Fairshare, that collects,and delivers, free food as they call it, to hostels,and daycentres we use ... you have to pay for it, its not free! nominal charge its called,explotation i call it,these are so called Charitys for the homeless,Dont give your money to a begger, give it to a charity for the homeless,
Makes you kind of think don,t it
and as a footnote to that im not street begger,or charity fundraiser either,just homeless, but not braindead
6.45pm Nov 4th
HC on staying in touch with your own humanity
At this moment in time,have just left lincon,s inn fields,in central london,Handout at 7.30 [soup run] which was supllied by the Ba Ba people from a temple in Kensington,meal consisted or rice,and chicken stew,a banana,club biscuit,and tea,or coffee from many flasks,very soon afterwards came the Hari Krisna Handout,rice again,and veggie meal,orange juice,there may be one or two more yet to arrive .... the soup runs not only feed people its also a meeting place to keep up with the street politics ... There is a soup run that comes out early every morning to us called the Simon community..tea, sandwiches,and they only go to people people like myself,living on the streets,at least there ain,t no pushing,and shoving,caucse we respect each other,All in the same Boat..
just thoughts during day got lots of time to think,if nothing else. 8.39pm Nov 5th
HC on life
when i started in the b log disscussion i was staying at a freinds place i knew,but he wanted his privacy back,so okay will leave,been on streets before ,do it again,no problem ! wish i could say "Life is a Adventure "depend i think which angle you are looking from, Alice in the Looking Glass?
8.58pm Nov 5th
HC on hostels
many people including myself are around, or living more than one homeless label,in a week... the number of times the comment has been passed to me,"you should be grateful what you get",and this from a paid homeless sector worker,as if they are doing me a big favour, plus within hostels there are quite a few workers who are bullys to people who are a homeless resident in hostel, the reason 2 fold 1. you a not a tennant, you sign a licence when you go into a homeless hostel,which means you sign your rights away..2.you complain about anything,they have the ultiminate deterent," THERES THE DOOR DONT COME BACK" sorry bit of a rant there, been there got the tee shirt..and dont forget the average hostel in london charges £300 a week, admittitley housing benefit pays this,but there are many services in a hostel,you dont,or may not want to use..
9.02pm Nov 6th
HC on true words
Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty...
only words, but so True!
8.39pm Nov 7th
HC on causes
Root causes,as many and as varied as people,over the years ,that i have been homeless,i have never met two people,who fell into the abyss the same,yes of course we talk to each other,on the streets,we are wearing the same label..but you have to be careful what you say,and the way you say it,if you give away a weakness in yourself,some my use this as a lever against you,self-preseversation thats what it boils down to, can make you very insular,and inward looking,live from moment to moment,day to day,no forward looking or planning..Roots, causes, of homelessness/prevention..how can you plan a cure?of a event? before it has even happened..
7.50pm Nov 8th
HC on labels
There some red faces around today,the people like myself, who spent the night "OUT" the red face because of the cold wind,took a while to get moving at 6am this morning... found a sandwich shop that puts its leftovers out just after five,and being friday,there is more than i can eat,so have put bag in a safe place,and share with others later... Issues; labels, labels ,labels where does it stop.There is plenty of crossover,and looking at one issue,means you can miss others more relevant to the person... people on the streets with mental health problems,there are a couple of people i have got to know, NO WAY should they be on the streets..just hope they are found soon by outreach workers ,and helped..which just goes to show Care in the Community,social policy lets down a lot of people,we need more dooers, not talkers,
8.48pm Nov 9th
HC on so-called experts
we are never really asked what we would like,at times this can come across as very,condesending,and patronising,example: They has been many surveys conducted about homelessness,i have been in a couple,was given a five pound reward? for taking part,Classic both times,first question,whats your name,date of bith, its comes across as authority,and we do not need to go down that road do we,
strait away its them and us..so give them lots of false answers,cause they dont know any better,and as a woman on the streets,you have to protect yourself,there is a invisable circle around me, and you "DONT" come inside, unless i invite you... why do i use IT cafe,s, cheap,warm, and best of all,treated the same as anyone else,and most importantly of all allows me to express my thoughts,as a person..being homeless is transitional,not a characteristic
7.44pm Nov 11th
HC on Xmas
start of christmas run up,party on the streets,xmas food laid on, big smiling faces,from volunteers,if your lucky, a director from the charity involved will be there,with a photographer,to get his picture taken for the annual yearly report..
"Life is an adventure
Life is like a good book
There are many chapters
10.12pm Nov 11th
I wish it was possible for you to have your own blog, HC, but grabbing sessions in internet cafes is hard, I know.
Meanwhile I'm more than happy for you to use my blog as a platform to ensure your voice is heard.
Take care, stay safe and I hope there's a bright future waiting for you around the next corner.