Wednesday 15 January 2014

Finding my voice

Gloucestershire   Francis mantle with piano

by Francis Mantle, companion at Emmaus Gloucestershire

Why do we need to become more vociferous in the political arena? The one resounding fact that stands out is that the well-being of a society primarily depends on the fate reserved for its weakest members; the most disadvantaged among us ie. the homeless, the destitute, the ostracised.

For 16 years I did not have the opportunity to express myself and felt totally marginalised by mainstream society.

All of the organisations, and there were many and varied, thought they could speak on my behalf, but they must have been reading from the same political script. When I told them: “That’s not how it is," I was met with a look of disbelief. Their response was: “Well, it must be this way, because you are homeless and we know what is best for you and this is the procedure we must adhere to."

My reply to this rhetoric was: “Has anyone in this office ever been homeless for any length of time?” Their inevitable answer was no, but…. no buts, nothing gives these people the right to think they have any knowledge of my situation, without them having been in my shoes.

Without a voice, I became absolutely socially excluded. For me personally, this exclusion included:

  • No access to hostels, due to the fact that I didn’t have a “problem”, meaning I wasn’t an alcoholic, drug addict or ex-offender.
  • No access to a bank account due to no permanent address.
  • No access to housing because of no local connection (no living relatives).
  • No access to healthcare due to clinics being shut down and doctors refusing to see me because I had no medical history.

It is very easy and happens rapidly to become one of the deposed. Mainstream politics and society will instantly strip you of your dignity, self-esteem and confidence, therefore you become ostracised.

You might as well scream at the top of your lungs; “I’m here," but I can assure you that no-one listens. The reason why? Because the system has brainwashed the general public that once you are homeless, for whatever reason, you become the flotsam and jetsam of society.

I found it nearly impossible to regain my status as a human being. The ignorance and prejudice of people was soul-destroying. My faith in humanity and a caring society was shattered and I retreated into another world as a non-entity. That’s another story.

For 16 years I was socially excluded. That hurts.

I have been in Emmaus Gloucestershire for two and a half years. I have found my voice and been encouraged to use it.

Emmaus has created a vociferous beast in me now, which will berate the system. And I will change people’s perceptions of the homeless.

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Cambridge companion Seb Vince and Jay Gray move mattress 131203

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