- An interview with Gerald Watson on his past before he became homeless in Birmingham.
We need to address the elephant in the city, being the mass demonization of the homeless community. The stigma towards the Homeless community is on the rise in Birmingham, suggests the not-so accommodating attitudes shown by local Birmingham Residents.
‘The Homeless are lazy and a public nuisance’ states 45 year old local business woman on Colmore Row. However, after meeting with Gerry Watson, a homeless man of a year and a half; the concept of homeless laziness and lack of ambition diminished massively in a short interview, over a McDonald’s hot chocolate on a cold Thursday morning.
The word homeless automatically creates ‘social isolation’ says Gerry, aged 59. He had talked in detail about the abuse and misrepresentation he had experienced, which had resulted in Mr Watson’s continuous need to relocate. Being forced out of the light of the public eye became common to Gerry as the homeless presence in areas such as South Hampton and Glasgow supposedly created a ‘bad city image’. Rather than being acknowledged, ‘people are more likely to brush serious issues like homelessness under the carpet’ says a local St Basil’s charity worker who has had to relocate numerous homeless people into Wolverhampton from Birmingham due to ‘overcrowding’.
‘There are a lot more homeless people in Birmingham which is sad to see because it makes the city look rough and unkempt’ says Tom, a local newsagent in Birmingham city Centre. However, seeing past the roughness and unkempt stigma of homelessness, Gerry, the aspiring artist interviewed at Grand Central McDonald’s seemed to prove that with the homeless community, there is certainly more than meets the eye.
Aspiring artist, Gerry Watson tells us the tales on how his life has significant ups and downs as a nomad on the streets of Birmingham, just as any other normal person experiences the hardships of life. Gerry says that ‘I am just a person too who finds it hard, not just a lazy homeless’ and that the distinction of ‘homeless’ should not dismiss the fact that he has ambitions, future hopes and interests just as all people do. His plans to become an artist or a professional brick-layer seem distant to him but with enough encouragement rather than constant demonization, ‘this could be made possible with mind-over-matter and the right emotional support’ says St Basils charity worker.
St Basil’s Homeless Charity are hosting the 2017 Birmingham Big Sleep Out on Friday 24th of November and work closely with the homeless community throughout the year but rather than raising physical means of aid, changing public attitudes towards homelessness is a huge part of the campaign event.
St Basil’s Homeless Charity are trying to diminish the stigma of homelessness this year in their Big Sleep out Event and to respond to this idea; getting to know the life, interests and ambitions of a homeless person over a McDonald’s hot chocolate was a great way to show the public that we should not avoid the issue and focus on the positive rather than the sob-story if we want to really empathize and make an actual difference.
Numerous companies such as ADI Healey Compressors are also taking part in the event to raise awareness of the physical issues that the homeless community face such as dangers of exposure, which is shown by sleeping in a card board box for 8 hours challenge. However, this year St Basils want to focus on the emotional detriment and mental health challenges that the community encounter such as social demonization and exclusion.