After noticing an infuriating 'tweet' by 'housing at Exeter' explaining how homeless people were refusing accommodation IN THIS FREEZING COLD WEATHER, I jumped at the chance to write on the issue.
Working as a Charity Fundraiser for a homeless charity has provided me with an understanding of the level of compassion, perseverance and determination required for a charity to actively make a difference; the difference in this case being to house the homeless.
Therefore it’s hardly surprising that I find it frustrating (and, frankly, odd) to learn that some homeless people have been turning down the basic bricks and mortar being offered to them by the council.
The month that I spent as a ‘Chugger’, a rather derogatory term for ’charity fundraiser’, comprised of the words ‘charity’ and ‘mugger’, was possibly the toughest and most socially awkward months of my life.
In no other area of life is it deemed acceptable for one to spend their entire day waving frantically and shouting ‘HELLO’ with a permanent smile consuming their entire face, at every single well-dressed human being walking in their direction.
Regardless of their reaction, one must then endeavour to obstruct their route, attempt to lock eye contact and then reel out the most scripted and rehearsed ‘spiel’ imaginable.
Despite the Chuggers' 'enthusiasm' there are certain connotations for the public when having to deal with them. All social grace flies out of the window and suddenly it’s completely reasonable to do everything in one’s power to avoid having to make contact with the ‘dearth of society’ with the clipboard.
Whatever the destination, it is entirely necessary to cross to the opposite side of the road as the Chugger. If one is unfortunate enough not to have spotted the Chugger in advance, it is essential that the desperate waves are ignored, abuse is shouted at them and, of course, telling them to get a ‘real job’ and swearing is hugely encouraged.
For the rest of the population, ‘I am in a rush’ accompanied by a glance at their watch, will suffice. And for the small proportion that have a slight conscience, ‘I donate to LOADS of other charities’ is the best way to tackle such an encounter.
After having to endure all of that, I’m sure you’ll understand how aggravated I feel on hearing that the support and help offered isn’t being gratefully received. Fully aware of how demanding it would be to obtain three separate debit card details a day from passers-by, I was up for the challenge as I was sure that my hard work plus the money that I helped to raise would be put to great use. Even after I had left (until I saw that tweet) I felt content that I’d done my bit for society. NOT ANYMORE, THANKS TWITTER.
During my four COLD weeks as a Chugger I was offered shelter an irritating amount of times, in which I had to politely respond by explaining that despite the fact that I was working for a homeless charity, I wasn’t actually homeless myself.
Embarrassingly, my boss noticed that I had a rather specific demographic. ‘To sign up with Caroline, you must be a man, you must be balding and you MUST be a pervert’ he announced one day at lunch in front of all of my colleagues.
I really was so grateful that he had insinuated to everyone that I worked with that I was offering random people on the street more than charity membership!
It wasn’t entirely true anyway as after discovering that my mother supported two charities, one of them being the ‘Cycling trust’ and one of them being a Rhinoceros in Kenya, I had successfully ridiculed her into joining.
On the coldest day of the year I was crouched over on a street shivering, wearing every item in my wardrobe and I was approached by a young man in a suit. It was extremely unusual, in fact it had NEVER happened before, that a young and good looking, well-dressed man (basically anyone that wasn’t balding and had a sign on his head saying ‘I am a pervert’) had actually approached me!
For any ordinary person in this situation, alarm bells would ring alerting her that THIS WAS A MYSTERY SHOPPER. A mystery shopper was a Chuggers’ worst enemy, we were warned about them every day, they worked for the charities’ governing body and their exact job description was to catch us out on our accuracy, enthusiasm and persuasiveness.
Nope, Caroline doesn’t suspect a thing, instead she assumes that this young man just wanted to have a chat with her bright red face and matching anorak, blue cracked lips, windswept hair, minimal make up and twenty layers adding to the illusion that she is in fact Rik Waller.
In respect of how important this man was, I think that the words that proceeded to come out of my mouth were worse than one could ever have imagined, ‘I think I’m going to DIE before I get FROSTBITE’, concluded with the absolute gem of ‘I HATE MY JOB’. The expression that then crossed his face was enough for anyone to realise that he wasn’t just a friendly guy looking for a chat (despite my breathtaking appearance) but someone that had the power and now possessed the motive to fire me on the spot. I honestly couldn’t have felt any more embarrassed.
Working as a fundraiser really was as challenging as everyone had warned me it would be, but it was a very effective way to raise support for such a good cause. Eighty eight percent of the money raised went directly to helping re-house the homeless and only twelve percent to administration. That hefty eighty eight percent reserved for the homeless can only be put to good use if the homeless people want to be helped…which apparently they don’t, making my contribution and the entire charities work somewhat useless, wonderful!
Perhaps next time I work for a charity I should do my Mum proud and apply for work at the bicycle and rhino trusts; that way I will know for certain that I was helping to make the world a better place!