The holiday season for those with no home

By Emma Myhre

Many associate the holiday season with going home, spending time with friends or family, and taking it easy before getting back to everyday life. However, this is not the reality for everyone. More than 20 000 people in the Netherlands are homeless1, faced with being left out in the cold during what is supposed to be the merriest season of all.

Mees has experienced being homeless herself. Now she wants to see a change of attitude towards homelessness. “Homeless people are often regarded as dangerous, or as a problem to society. In reality, the society is the problem, and homelessness is just a result of it.” Mees spends a lot of her time empowering her community: she bikes around The Hague, picks up food, cleans up litter, helps those around her and brings people together. ”Bad things keep happening because good people look away.” She wants to take an active role in improving the system, and wants others to do the same.

The holiday season may bring joy to a lot of people, but some are left out. Mees says it is very difficult to be homeless during the holidays. Not only is it cold: most places will be closed and there are not many places to go. There are some special cold weather arrangements for the homeless population in the Hague2. They come into force when it becomes too dangerous to stay the night outside. Frost, strong winds and rain put people at risk of serious health problems. Shelters provide a bed, a meal, and a few other facilities. However, Mees is not happy with the arrangement. From her experience, the quality of the shelters is not great and people get distressed when staying there.

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Mees with her bike, 10.12.18 | Emma Myhre

Mees thinks it is upsetting that the city has so much empty space that could have been used in a better way. She notices apartments that stay empty for days, weeks, months. Some people own so many things that they do not use, while others get nothing. “I think it is caused by a greater problem of consumerism. We do not value the things we have and people always want more and more.” She encourages people to use a little less, to value the things they have more.

Finally, Mees wants people to be aware of their actions, be kind and not judge others so quickly. “Homeless people are not bad people. They are very intelligent and everyone is just trying their best.” They are people, just like anyone else. They do not only need food and shelter, but also a sense of purpose and belonging. “Instead of ignoring them, I think people should say hi to them, talk to them.” Perhaps we all should take a moment in the holiday season to be a little more aware of the people around us and the society we live in.