Christmas on the Streets – by Helen May


Helen MayFor me “Celebrating Christmas” means decorating the house, going to parties, racking my brain for original present ideas, catching up with friends and family, panicking because I received a card from someone I forgot to send one to, being amazed by other people’s generosity and eating far too much food. December is definitely different, in good ways, to any other month of the year.

Whilst I am enjoying all this fun and frivolity, I am aware not everyone’s experience is the same as mine. One year, when I had just arrived in Australia and didn’t know many people there, I spent Christmas Day serving Christmas dinner to people who are less advantaged. Most of these were elderly who were lonely and needed someone to talk to. There were also a few homeless people enjoying the rare company, food and comfort.

Each year, I buy my cards from a charity. I could buy them from Diabetes UK and I am aware how beneficial the money raised through the cards is for finding a cure and helping support people, like myself, with diabetes. However, as it’s Christmas, I want to give to someone else and, thinking how hard this time of year is for people without a home, I look for cards from Shelter or Centrepoint or Crisis.

Life without a home is difficult. Life without a home and with diabetes must be even harder:

When it is a struggle to find any food, the idea of eating healthily must seem ridiculous. I guess any food is healthier than no food. But irregular meals are not going to help to manage a condition such as diabetes.

There are many reasons why someone could become homeless. Often this is to do with addictions, whether drugs or alcohol. And this can impact diabetes management. I know how much a few too many drinks can impact my blood sugars (especially this time of year). However, the relationship between homelessness and drugs can have less obvious impacts on people with diabetes. For example, some shelters forbid residents from possessing needles due to the fear of them being abused by those supporting their drug-taking habits.

Then there are the complications that diabetes brings which are more brutal when you have no where to live: being out on your feet all day in all weather is going to be very difficult if suffering from neuropathy or other foot problems. And how do you treat a hypo when out and about, being ignored by many people and having no access to glucose? Dextrose and Lucozade are not cheap.

I could go on but my knowledge is only based on reading a few examples and trying to imagine how I would cope (I’m not sure I would). I cannot provide a home for the homeless and I cannot solve all their problems. However, thinking about what Christmas with diabetes is like on the streets, puts into context my problems of how much insulin to take for a mince pie after a few glasses of bubbly. So, Diabetes UK, I hope you will forgive me for not buying your Christmas Cards this year.

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