During Stress Awareness Month we are made aware of the consequences that stress can bring in our lives. Each of us has experienced stress to some degree and we are familiar with the body switching from fight or flight mode when we encounter pressure that we don’t feel we can handle. We may have experienced some of the negative symptoms such as memory problems, inability to concentrate, moodiness and anxiety, chest pain or high blood pressure. Even I have the occasional anxious moment when I’m overwhelmed with work. But what if we were to lose a home or find ourselves in a situation where we had no-where to go and needed a bed to sleep at night? Homelessness can happen to any one of us. According to statistics by Shelter Scotland, people sleeping on the street are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and more than one in three people sleeping rough have been deliberately hit or kicked or experienced some other form of violence whilst homeless. Homeless people are also over nine times more likely to take their own life than the general population.
Homeless people suffer high levels of stress from their lack of control over their housing situation, combined with high levels of poverty and often poor living conditions. Stress in people who are homeless can happen more slowly and subtly over longer periods of time and can be easy to miss. The stress of experiencing homelessness may exacerbate previous mental illness and encourage anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness and substance use.
This is why Bethany staff take time to care and listen to people in desperate need. Bethany staff work hard to create community among vulnerable people, which helps to tackle stress. In the care shelter, staff have created an environment where people look out for each other despite the hardship and stress that goes with homelessness and rough sleeping.
I remember hearing that one night at the Care Shelter, as the guests were gathered at the entrance waiting for the doors to open, one of the regular guests suddenly collapsed and had a seizure. Staff swung into action – they are trained to deal with such incidents. At the same time, all the guests showed huge concern and willingness to help by any means possible. They gave staff space and time to care for the stricken individual, and they made sure no one entered the building while the staff were distracted. That concern and caring by the other guests continued as the seizure subsided and the man began to come around. Some guests waited in the street to flag down the ambulance that had been called.
Even though the vast majority of the guests did not know this man or maybe only knew him by his first name, and even though some of the guests are in terrible situations themselves, they still showed love and caring towards the unknown man. The Care Shelter is a community; many individuals from different backgrounds, brought together by a lack of accommodation. Despite their many differences, there is a willingness to look out for one another. This is why I’m proud to work for Bethany Christian Trust.
Bethany has been at the forefront of turning hopeless, stressful situations around, transforming lives and will continue to work hard ending homelessness one person at a time.
As Christians we are called to fill our lives with the concern for others, so let us follow the example of those guests at the Care Shelter, watching out and caring for those around us who are stressed, offering peace and demonstrating the love of God to all those we meet.