19 April 2024

The world seems such a mess today and for many daily news reports can become depressing.  But imagine life out on the streets – no home, no family, no friends.  Homelessness is not just a problem of substance abusers, people struggling with addictions or people with mental illness. It can happen to anyone.

The longer a person remains homeless, the more difficult it becomes for them to re-engage and get back into mainstream society.  Being homeless is lonely, isolating, destabilising, demoralising and depressing.  A person becomes lost in a dense fog of life.  Existing rather than thriving.  Continual barriers erode your self-esteem and your personality withers, disintegrates, scatters.

YMCA Wirral works tirelessly to help to alleviate homeless peoples suffering and struggles.  We work to build up people’s self-esteem and confidence, teach them new skills and help them progress into sustainable independent lifestyles.

YMCA Wirral offer a range of services to support our service users and one such project is our Poetry Group which has become established as a firm favourite part of the day.

How does poetry bring solace to a troubled mind?

Poetry can act as a bridge, helping us connect, reflect and at times make us smile.  It can transport us to a different place and lead us away from bad thoughts to happy ones.

We have found that coming together and reading, writing and sharing poetry does help people cope with loneliness and isolation and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and this has been proven by academic studies too.  It has also been found that some people who read poetry improved their thinking powers, or “cognitive function”, which in turn improved their capacity to cope with stress.

Some poetry can be rather heavy going, but one poet whose works have captivated and enriched our service users’ lives is Pam Ayres, one of the country’s best loved writers, broadcasters, and entertainers.

We started our poetry group as a way of getting people to think about reading, improving their literacy skills and also just coming together to socialise for a short time each day, to create a sense of togetherness.  The first session saw 2 people turn up for a coffee and a poem.  Next time saw 7, then 8 and now regularly we see around 17 in each session.

We chat, then read just one or two of Pam’s amazing rhymes – some of the favourites are The Facts of Life, They Should Have Asked My Husband, The Well Woman Check, The Parrot, and Map Reading, all of which end up with riotous laughter and once the session is over, have filled the listeners with a happy joyous feeling that seems to continue all day.