Why cycle at all? Because homeless people are dying.
I got involved with the Big Issue bike ride to Paris this year partly because the life expectancy of a rough sleeper is so horrendously low, put between 42 and 46 years old. Since I’ve been fundraising and training I’ve become aware of a rough sleeper I knew of dying, aged 45, and other people attacked and murdered purely because they are on the streets. This week the Big Issue runs a memorial for Ralph Millward, a vendor aged 41, who was viciously kicked to death on the streets of Bournemouth. Three teenagers are currently under arrest.
To think whilst I lie safely asleep in my home with my young family there are people whose lives are at risk out on the street is distressing. When I lived in London I knew there was a homeless woman asleep about 40 yards from my bed out in the stair well of the tower-block. I didn’t know what to do to help her and she subsequently died of an overdose. Maybe that’s why homeless people are so badly treated today. Our society that tries so hard to be inclusive and fair fails so fully to help those who are truly downtrodden. No-one says everyone is easy to help, we know there is no magic wand and maybe that is what scares us about being homeless. We don’t understand it, but we do understand we are all vulnerable to it.
I came close to losing a roof over my head in my twenties. I thought to myself seriously “Oh well, I’ll go on the tramp with my dogs, we’ll survive.” I never found out if I would have survived because my sister helped me. Given the brutal killing of Ralph Millward I am not sure.
The big ride yesterday taught me a few things about myself. Reading the news about Ralph today reminded me to count my blessings and to keep up the fundraising for the Big Issue Foundation. There is no magic wand but it costs nobody anything to remember that the people we see on the street, without a home and sometimes with mental health or substance use issues, are still real people with feelings and intelligence and we should treat them with respect and help where we can.