For the last few days of my trip, I’ve been feeling quite sick. I’m not sure whether it’s a hangover, allergies, a cold, or a combination of all three. The sun makes me feel sick, the damp makes me feel sick. However, I am very lucky – I’m staying with a friend, have a room of my own, and have access to healthy food, clean water, and warmth.
Many are not so lucky. The film Streets of Plenty reveals how homelessness can cause people to become ill and prevent their bodies from recovering, creating a vicious cycle which is incredibly damaging to people’s health. Shelters may be warm, but the huge rooms full of beds are an ideal place for diseases to spread, and you probably won’t be able to sleep because at least one person will be up coughing all night. Outside may be quieter, but unless it is warm the cold makes it difficult to sleep, and because your body is hard at work keeping itself warm the immune system will be down, making one more susceptible to illness if one is exposed. Private rooms are sometimes available, but getting one is akin to winning the lottery.
So, when I’m sick in bed, lucky enough to have a bed to be sick in, I think about how perverse our world is that it is such a privilege to have a bed, such a privilege to have a clean warm place in which to recover. Everyone should have a room, have a bed, a blanket, a clean bathroom and warm water. Treating every human being with decency is expensive, but in a world of billion dollar yachts, we clearly aren’t trying hard enough.