No one in Europe should have no home. That was a decision voted for by the European Parliament at the end of November. The Parliament, which speaks for people in 27 countries, said governments must find homes for everyone within 10 years. In late January, it voted again, to give all Europeans more rights to a roof over their head
But solving the problem won’t be easy. We can all do something to help, though, without waiting for others.
That’s the message this week from Martin Besson, who tells WoW! how he was still a schoolboy in France when he decided to do something himself.
Martin explains that he wasn’t very happy after he went to senior school. He got bullied. He didn’t fit in, he felt. He got into trouble and ended up getting excluded.
So, when he saw homeless people sleeping rough in the streets, he understood how they felt shut out by most other people. He started talking to some of them.
He realised that homeless people – like the rest of us – want to be seen and heard. So, when he was 18, Martin set up a website to tell their stories and show their pictures.
Over the past 7 years, his site, Sans-A, has become a way for millions of people to help others who find themselves with nowhere to live. And helping other people has helped Martin himself feel that he has found his own place in the world and a way to be happy.
Who goes there?
NAME? Martin Besson
FROM? Paris, France
JOB? Sans-A, a website that helps homeless people
The WoW! Interview: Martin Besson
WoW! : Hello Martin. Welcome to WoW! News. How did you first think about helping homeless people?
Martin: Around my school, I saw a lot of homeless people. And I also felt a bit left out at school – I felt people didn’t listen to me or think about me.
WoW! : And so you took an interest in people who you felt were left out, a bit like you. When you were 18, you tried to find out more about the homeless?
Martin: I wanted to help. But can you really help people if you don’t know what their lives are like? So, I tried it out – for a bit less than 24 hours. That’s when I realised I had to make other people notice the homeless, to make the invisible visible – because I was shocked that not one person came up to ask me what an 18-year-old kid was doing on the street.
WoW! : And how have you found a solution to that problem?
Martin: Telling people’s stories on the website, it means we haven’t forgotten about you. You’re not just homeless. You’re a person. You have a name.
WoW! : That’s why you founded the website Sans-A? The name means “Without A” in French.
Martin: Without-A is for people without a home but it’s also about people without a penny, without a friend, without affection, without a plan – but about people who do have a story, a hope, a dream. And maybe they have a future, if we help them. We can all find ourselves feeling left out or without friends or not sure where we’re heading.
WoW! : What has doing all this given you?
Martin: I can look in the mirror every morning and feel happy. I’m not the most generous person in the world. But I’m someone who does what he can … to make life a bit better for people. If more people do the same, maybe we can change things for good.
WoW! : What do you think the 11-year-old Martin would think about 25-year-old Martin?
Martin: I think he’d be proud.
WoW! : What do you think is your biggest strength?
Martin: Perseverance – sticking with things and seeing them through. I often say that if you don’t get something you want, it’s because you didn’t want it enough.
WoW! : What would you say to a young person who’s told that their dreams aren’t possible?
Martin: I’d say you absolutely mustn’t listen to that … Kids, until you’ve really tried your hardest … keep going. Because you’re never very far from achieving your dreams.
WoW! : Thank you, Martin!
Top 3: Martin’s tips for helping homeless
Want to help the homeless? First, talk it over with your parents and see what you all think about Martin’s top tips for offering a helping hand:
Don’t just walk past someone who’s living on the street. Show them that you see them. It’s even better if you smile. And maybe even say hello…
2. No money needed!
You don’t need to give people money. If your parents are OK with it, you could ask someone what they need. Maybe they’d like something you no longer use at home. An old book, for example. Or a bite to eat.
3. Get together!
How about getting your teachers to help you organise a collection at school? People could bring in clothes, soap, toothbrushes, food, all sorts of little things that can really make a homeless person’s day.
Let us know if you find these tips useful and we’ll pass on to Martin your news about what you find to do to help homeless people.