This series of articles muses about what could happen if I became homeless. I’ll be cycling from London to Paris in July to raise money for the Big Issue Foundation, a charity that, in its own words, aims to give homeless people a hand up, not a hand-out. I would be most grateful for your sponsorship. Please click for details about the charity and my challenge. (中文版)

– – – – – –

Every month I can’t wait to get to the final day, because that’s when I get paid. My bank account goes above 0 for about a day (as I’m using my overdraft), then in despair I watch it fall back into the red once I’ve paid my rent and bills. But I still count myself lucky; at least I’ve got a place for which to pay rent, bills and council tax.

In a series of articles I’ll explore what it could mean to me if I became homeless. To start off, I won’t even count how important it is to have physical shelter, but how important it is to simply have an address other than, for example, “Del Monte cardboard boxes, exit 4, Elephant and Castle roundabout subway, London, SE1 (6 pm to 6 am only)”.

Have a think. See if you can add to this list.

Without a proper fixed address, I wouldn’t be able to, or at least would find it difficult to:

  • Have Christmas cards, or indeed anything, posted to me
  • Open a bank account
  • Apply for a permanent job
  • Receive my wages (if I’ve got a permanent job)
  • Claim certain (or any) benefits
  • Register to vote
  • Register with a GP
  • Acquire a proof of identity (e.g. passport, driving licence)
  • Access any discount schemes to lower the cost of living (e.g. supermarket loyalty cards)
  • Get a credit rating
  • Get a mobile phone contract

I won’t be able to, or will find it difficult to, do all of those things if I didn’t have an address. Some of the things are more trivial; others vital. How would I cope? How would you cope?

Of course, theoretically, there are ways to get around all the above problems. For example, in 2001 the Bank of Scotland began a scheme to make it easier for homeless people to acquire bank accounts to help homeless people keep their money safe or even begin saving up (click!). But simply not having a fixed address can lead to many inconveniences when leading a daily life. Don’t take your home for granted; don’t even take your address for granted!

Next time I’ll start thinking about the material goodies I’d lack without a home.