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Five pounds doesn’t seem like a lot of money. Certainly, if I were to give you five pounds and I said you have everything that you need to make it through a Monday, you would think I had gone crackers and think that I had set you an impossible task, but have I? It turns out it’s all about your circumstances.

Here’s what happens when you spend a fiver, when you’ve donated a fiver to someone on the streets or to Catching Lives.

The truth is that being homeless is an expensive business. Think about it, if you go to the shops and buy milk for the week it costs a pound or so, you go home, put it in the fridge and by and large it’s there when you need it. The same goes for ham for a sandwich, the butter, maybe some salad and cookies too. You have nearby, the makings of a nice lunch.

Perhaps when you got up early, you had a cup of tea, (that milk has come in handy again), and a slice or two of toast. Because you have the facilities, you can do this for a few pence. You still have about £3.50 left over. Put in the rent, council tax, utilities and you are cutting if fine but, well managed, a fiver will cover a fair bit of it all. But what if you didn’t? What if the reason you woke up early was that it started to rain or that the person in whose shop doorway you bedded down in needed you to move, what then?

Why, at best, a coffee is going to cost a pound (so now you are down to £4), you are gonna pay a couple of pounds for a sandwich because you are hungry and Catching Lives is not yet open for the day. (2 quid left and it’s not even breakfast time), perhaps you need to go to an appointment a bus ride away. Not even 9 AM and that fiver you started the day with is history…
But what if you gave Catching Lives the money? Is that better? If it is then why?

Catching Lives can use a fiver in a number of ways; £5 means bread for all our clients for a week. Or a sack of potatoes, that can become the basis for a nutritious hot meal for up to 30 people.
It’s a big tin of coffee, pile of teabags, milk and sugar. So that instead of one cup of coffee a homeless person can have as many as they like or need. It’s 5 shower gels, meaning that a lot of showers can be taken and hygiene is maintained. That the feeling of self-worth and dignity, which is so important, is sustained. It’s dozens of laundry cycles, it’s battery chargers and mobile phone top ups. It’s bus fares and many phone calls home…

A fiver will keep the lights on at Canterbury Open Centre and provide a refuge for someone who needs a bit of time where they can relax, it’s time spent with a project worker or outreach worker, which may be the most positive contact a person has all day.

Suddenly a fiver is not a throw away sum of money; suddenly it is not scratching the surface of a day’s needs as it is for a rough sleeper. A Fiver, Five Pounds, 5 quid…. Is a life changing sum of money. Help Catching Lives help homeless people. We promise to spend your fiver wisely to support homeless people every single day of every year.

By Paul Todd

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