Ewan Aitken: Troubled times for all but we must still find time for those on the margin
How is it such tiny microbes, invisible to the naked eye, can replicate and instil such fear and panic into the entire human race. Forget the idea of humanity being the dominant life-force on earth. Right now we are being overrun by something we can’t see, we are still discovering ways in which they move from person to person and we haven’t yet discovered how to cure the illness they cause.
This experience is new territory and we are really just feeling our way through it, finding out what works and how best to cope through trial and error. And now the kids are home until August! Self-isolation for me, a week in, is not a comfortable experience and in truth unless I make some changes to how I am dealing with this experience, it will only get worse.
But I am still in a very privileged position. Cyrenians work to prevent people ending up homeless and with those who are in the tough reality of homelessness. It’s vital that the groups of people we support know that we’re still here, we still value them and care about them.
How can you self-isolate when you are in shared hostel accommodation with communal facilities and no place to go other than the streets? How can you get support to get out of that situation when those who support you have to reduce the support they give so they can stay fit enough to give you some support?
One local authority I know is only letting one person at a time into its support hub, an understandable move to keep staff safe but yet another barrier to those trying to escape their homelessness. And with deep irony those sleeping rough are the most isolated people in society and yet are also amongst those most likely to fall ill, often because of the underlying conditions they have contracted from being so isolated in the first place. For those in the tough reality of homelessness, things really are going to get worse, and for a greater proportion than the general population, may well be fatal.
It has been often said the mark of a society is how it treats those on the margins. It seems to me the true mark of a society is how it treats those on the margins when it itself is in a crisis. Will it continue to act justly to all its citizens, caring not just for neighbours but the stranger?
These are abnormal times so we need to create our own new normality. I have been inspired by the many different people and communities I have already seen who have stepped up already to look after and look out for friends and neighbours and strangers too. The human capacity to be generous in a crisis is profound and uplifting. Cyrenians, like many other charities, have had lots of offers of help of both time and in kind.
All of which is very much appreciated and much of it will be usable. I spoke this week with a restaurant chef whose business is closing offering to cook meals for us so we can distribute them to people who can’t cook for themselves. He is one of many who have stepped up brilliantly.
But this is a rapidly changing situation where what we need today will be different tomorrow. To cope with the need to be agile, innovative and flexible, the thing we need most is financial donations. That’s why Cyrenians have started a crisis appeal justgiving.com/campaign/Covid19CrisisAppeal. If you want to help those most isolated in this crisis please donate to us or find your local homelessness charity and donate some cash to them. Every penny will help make sure the most vulnerable get the help they need.
It would be a lasting and powerful legacy from this moment in time to be able to say we know the mark of Scotland as a nation is that, especially in a crisis, we care for those on the edge.