Stories from people in Leicester who were once homeless
By John Florance
Presenter, BBC Leicester
"The stories were often heartening as well as heartbreaking"
The other day I attended the relaunch of a local charity which helps homeless people in my home city, Leicester. It's called
I spoke to some of the many men and women who have been helped by the charity and listened to their stories.
The stories were often, much to my surprise, heartening as well as heartbreaking.
As a result of the work of the charity, all of the people I spoke to were now re-housed, positive and, although scarred by their experiences, better equipped to look life in the eye once again.
Almost every one of them told me that the experiences they had gone through, including in one case, a suicide attempt, had allowed them to understand themselves better. They had gained a self knowledge.
Now, I am not for a minute suggesting that becoming homeless is a 'good thing' because it promotes self understanding. But every person I spoke to talked about life now as a new beginning.
Action Homeless had provided them with the time, the space, the conditions in which to think deeply, more deeply than they had ever done before, about who they were and what they were capable of.
And in particular they said that when they were homeless, in some cases on the street, they could only live a day at a time.
They couldn't contemplate anything beyond the next few hours.
Now the future was something to be embraced. I found this intensely moving and their stories have stayed with me ever since.
We who haven't found themselves in such a position tend to talk glibly about a new beginning when we embark on a diet or even buy a new suit of clothes.
But this is trivial compared with what those formerly homeless people meant when they spoke about a new beginning.
For them it was a newly discovered attitude towards the future - a future to be embraced in all its possibility and potential. More importantly the future represented hope - the hope that is a great Christian virtue.
And it is only in hope, a hope that takes us beyond our immediate situation, that we can truly make a new beginning.
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