As Project Manager at Doorway, I have an extremely diverse range of roles within the organisation, ranging from fundraising to every aspect of running an open access drop-in centre.
However, surprisingly, one of my most fulfilling and challenging roles involves community engagement. I am often asked to speak at a rather eclectic mix of meetings and events on the services provided by Doorway and the issues surrounding homelessness. The audience can range in ages from 5yrs to the over 60’s and come from all walks of life and backgrounds.
On any occasion I can guarantee that there is a percentage of the audience who are personally affected by at least one of the issues that I will speak about – drugs, alcohol, mental health and homelessness. All of these subjects are still regarded as society’s greatest taboos and aren’t discussed extensively enough.
By highlighting the fact that even in the leafy rural idyll of Wiltshire there is a demand for our service and explaining the lack of funding for support services, I can ‘wake’ any audience up to the fact that homelessness can happen to anyone at any time.
My talks are hard-hitting and often depressing, especially the ones I give to secondary school pupils in yrs 9 to 11 and sixth form. I will talk to them about self-harming, prostitution, and how easy it is to become drug and alcohol dependent. I will explain the realities of life on the streets after you have an argument with your parents and leave home, in the hope that the message sinks in and at that critical moment that young person may just decide to go back home.
We have all been teenagers at one time and we all remember the anxieties and arguments with our parents. Most of us have run away from home in the expectation that life would be easier without the conflicts. But youngsters don’t listen to their parents and neither did we.
In a world where children grow up so quickly and peer group pressure is the most important factor in the teenage years, as parents we can only hope that we are instilling enough morals and values and ethics as possible in a short space of time. From that moment on, we can only ease off slightly and hope that we have done enough to ensure that our children grow up healthy and happy.
As parents, we need to discuss the subjects of drugs and alcohol with our children in order that they can make their own informed choices in life. Each past generation has experimented with drugs and every future generation will continue to do so. We need to explain the pitfalls of drug use to our children and instill in them the knowledge that drugs and alcohol can, and often do, devastate people’s lives.
Every one of us reaches a number of major crossroads in our lives; those times when we know that any future path can have a great impact on our journey through life. I truly hope that the young people I talk to will, when reaching that decision, remember a little snippet of a lesson from a distant memory of a classroom and take the least harmful path.
If I can prevent just one young person from needing to access Doorway’s services in the future, then my speeches are worthwhile and I have made a difference…