Five people listening to an Unseen Tours guide, Pete on Brick Lane. Pete points upwards to a building as he explains its history to his guests.

Change Please?

Oh! The English language, the subtle nuance of common everyday words. No wonder that non-English speakers find it difficult to understand complex, yet simple statements.

Take the title of this ode “Change Please?”. Most will assume that this statement is meant to convey the need for a change in some material or even political sense.

In context of homelessness some will add the prefix ”Can you spare some…”.

I know of two homeless projects with the word “Change” in their name.

The first is a “Street Kitchen” (we dislike the term “Soup Kitchen” as it has negative undertones) that I volunteer for called Jamming 4 Change. Jamming 4 Change supplies food and musical entertainment to homeless people. The other is a charity that takes people from the street and trains them to become coffee baristas in their street cafes called Change Please?. I came across this organisation recently on social media and became intrigued by the concept. I spoke to our London Bridge tour guide David and it turns out that, pre pandemic, he had actually been trained by them. Unfortunately, the pandemic brought an end to that.

Changes are needed in the homeless sphere, both legally and socially. In the legal sense there is a law called S.W.E.P. (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) that states that the only time a homeless person can self-refer to a homeless hostel is when temperatures are predicted to fall to zero degrees centigrade or below. This law has sadly caused many people to die in the street.

In the social sense, there has been a lot of “bad press” over the years about homeless people being untrustworthy and “scrounging” from the state. This also needs to change because, given the cost of living crisis we are now experiencing, it looks like more people may become unemployed with many of those people at risk of becoming homeless.

That old adage “You’re only 3 missed mortgage/rent payments from being on the streets” is looming over people more as global and national pressures bare down on us. The sum total of people experiencing homelessness, or being afraid of becoming homeless is rising and we all could do more as a society to “Change, Please”.

Thanks for your time and I hope to see you on my Brick Lane tour soon!.

Pete, your Brick Lane Tour Guide