So, maybe you know Julie.
She sits between Zest and the cobbler's on Market Street, St Andrews. She smiles at everyone who walks past, and says hello. If you stop and talk to her, you'll be rewarded, it'll change your whole day. She is nothing but kind, generous, thoughtful and tolerant. She is often sitting with students, talking about their studies - she's a veterinary nurse and wanted to be a surgeon, and knows pretty good Latin - and is animated and excited in conversation. However, we're just students, and we are limited in helping her. A few locals and students will buy her the odd coffee, but I think it's not enough, and I hope you agree she's worth more than a caffeine fix when you have an extra pound coin.
She moved out of an abusive household, and gets no help from the government. She's had her benefits sanctioned, and although the UK government offers to put her in a homeless hostel in Dundee - the bus to Dundee is £6, by the way - there is no private space and it's unclean, and everyone is together (drug addicts, prostitutes, alcoholics, I don't judge any lifestyle, but hey fair enough if she doesn't want to be your roommate). This hostel costs £1000 a month per person, it's crazy. They could give her a pretty good house for that. Instead, her reward for reporting and leaving a horrid situation is to be separated from her lovely dog (a Jack Russell called Tilly) and forced to sleep in a derelict building. She chooses to sleep rough in St Andrews despite being from Kircaldy even though it is much colder here because she believes we are kinder, and more generous, and more willing to talk. Even though she has a little sign about her benefits and a paper cup for odd change, she'd rather have your conversation than money. A few times I have walked past and seen her sitting with students talking to them with her coffee. She likes lattes, with lots of sugar, and to talk about her dog. Over the winter, things are rough. It's cold, and Julie suffers from lupus and has it pretty bad in one hand, and she sits in a doorway to protect herself from the wind so she can sit and smile at the people she considers to be nicer to her.
Despite her hardship, Julie is always happy. She tells me that the house was just bricks, and her husband is welcome to it. She tells me to work with refugees, because they need help more. She has encouraged me to go for projects that I didn't have the confidence to do. She is understanding and a great listener. Once I was complaining about having lost my keys, locking me out until my roommate came home, and she laughed and told me she empathised. She's pretty witty. She is clever, and alert, and she barely has a winter jacket or a blanket. She tells me she's on a list for temporary housing, and she wants to stay in St Andrews. So um, please give what you can. And if you can't give much right now, give it later. If you don't want to give it to Julie, give it to the homeless person you see every day. Recognise that they are human, and they're actually probably pretty cool, and smile at them and talk to them about their day. Julie is a homeless person, but she's much more, she's not an "other". She's cool as hell, and you should be excited to share a town with someone as passionate and as energetic as she is.