Jelena Vilotijevic recently decided to join a group of young people in London, UK in the Sleepout 2017 project, organized by LCM – London City Mission with the intention to draw the attention of a wider public to the hardships the homeless people are facing every day, and thus help raise some funds for LCM to help the homeless of London, materially and spiritually. Together with a group of friends and volunteers Jelena decided to spend a night in the open, sleeping in her sleeping bag. Jelena Vilotijevic comes from Montenegro, and is currently living in the UK. Jelena also serves currently in the ROM – Renewing Our Minds leadership team, and is one of the key leaders of the IFES – International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Montenegro. This is a part of her recent newsletter in which she talks about her ‘homeless’ experience:
Our group was trying to be quiet. We were told to not disturb the neighborhood. Soon we were all in our sleeping bags. Everyone was trying to get some sleep, but I could not, although I was warm, with a thick cardboard under me, and tucked into my sleeping bag. I saw some people watching us from the nearest building. It must have been unusual for them to see close to 30 people spending a night ougt in the dark and cold London park. Then I witnessed the shutting down of all lights on that building.
I saw a police car at the gate of the park, talking with the Security people and one of the representatives of LCM. They left soon after they were knew we were not using drugs, and that LCM had the appropriate insurance and permission to be there.
A moment later I heard some voices getting closer, and a sound of a smashed bottle! And then another one, four or five to follow! A group of young men were going back from a nearby pub. When they saw us they mocked us and yelled at us. And then they left.
Strangely, I was not scared. There was a fence between them and me. I knew that the security people were there to protect us. But, I thought to myself, what would have happened if I were alone, with no fence and no the guardians at the gate of the park? Unfortunately, that was what the real homeless people experience every day and night: someone yelling at them, mocking them, kicking them, or spitting at their faces, or doing even worse things to them, without anyone to protect them.
It took me two weeks to process what happened the night in a London park when for a moment I tasted only a fragment of what it looked like being a homeless person. The other day I walked out of the restaurant after a good breakfast with my friends and I saw one real homeless man, in his sleeping bag next to the door. I looked at him (after two weeks I finally got courage to do so), smiled, bowed and asked if he had anything to eat that morning. He said he did. I offered to get him coffee. Yes, homeless people, love coffee as much as we do.
After he got his coffee I asked him if he knew about Webber Street, and tried to explain how he could find it. I was looking in his eyes. I saw warmth, I saw an expression of gratefulness. Not for the coffee, nor for the charity place to get food and shower from time to time, but for the fact someone wanted to speak to him; that someone cared, someone took a moment to treat him as a fellow human being.
To read more about Jelena’s experience read “Homelesness: Where the Christmas Story Begins”