"Love, from the Cradle to the Grave".

08 Mar 2019
by Devon Lee

Mary White, one of our larger than life supporters, has dedicated her life to fight homelessness. Now approaching eighty years of age, she is still as passionate, caring and dedicated to eradicating homelessness as she ever was.

How long have you been supporting Framework?

A long time, I’ve always supported homelessness-related causes, but when I was working for the council in Mansfield, we knew all the charities. Framework wasn’t that big then but the first thing I did was The Big Swim in Mansfield in the early 2000’s. I wanted something extra to do so I also helped in the kitchens.

Of all the social causes, why homelessness?

It’s been my life’s work. It started when I was homeless with my two children. I didn’t want to lose my children if I sought accommodation, and, back in those days, they would have taken them. I had a bad marriage, it was chaotic. I decided I was going to leave him and went to stay at my mother-in-law’s but the house was crowded, so I was homeless and went to stay on the streets.

After a while, I went to stay with my friend Janet. She had started taking in young offenders who had come out of prison and had nowhere to stay. It wasn’t like it was today. She took me and my children in and I started cooking, she taught me how to work with social services and probation officers and I began going with her to meet up with them and also to help people try to find jobs.

It was a home, not a hostel, we supported and loved the young people staying with us. People need the support of a home background. Janet took ill with cancer not long after, she made me promise her two things. To look after her son, Andy. To continue the fight against homelessness. She was a brilliant teacher, I have such happy memories of her.

I had to go to the council’s finance officer to keep Janet’s home running, luckily he knew my father and said “If you’re anything like your dad, I’ll give you a chance”.

Why do you think people should support causes that tackle homelessness?

If something happened, and my children were on the street, I hope someone would be there to help them. No one would want to see their children on the street, but it could happen to anyone.

My instincts are maternal. I fought for the hostels to be opened in Mansfield, we had them for 25 years. People cared back then, we had a group called The Mid-Day Break. It was comprised of doctors, social services, churches and everyone and anyone. We wanted to change people’s lives for the better.

If you don’t stick up for people and support them, no one will help them. I’ve been very lucky in my lifetime and I’ve been supported. We need to make sure everyone else is too. We’re not here to be selfish.

There has also been more and more attacks on homeless people, one man was stabbed in a soup kitchen here not long ago. It’s terrible.

Do you think the nature of homelessness has changed?

Yes. A lot. More and more people becoming homeless. The drugs bring a lot more problems for people too.  These drugs are numbing people and it needs to be stopped so they can get off the streets.

People’s perspectives are the same, some people can be very very nasty but I truly believe there’s more people that do care than don’t. It’s a minority of people that spoil it and treat homeless people with no respect or care.

What makes you proud to be a woman?

I’m proud to be a mother. I have a lot of extended family, children of my own, step-children, foster children and I’m proud to be a mother to them all. My daughter tells me I’m a great teacher and I hope I’ve given other people inspiration.

Don’t be afraid to show love.

We’re not given lessons on how to be a mother, it’s inside us. I want my daughters and sons to know I love them. If there was more love in this world, we wouldn’t have the problems that we do.

I would never change my life, it’s been hard work, but I’ve been lucky and very blessed.

Love from the cradle to the grave. 

Do you think you’ll ever stop supporting causes that tackle homelessness?

Never, I can’t sit down, I’ll go for as long as I can. There’s still that needs doing and I can’t do it all but I’ll do what I can. I’ve never had a lot of money but I’ve never wanted for much. I was homeless and that set me on this path but I’ve always been concerned. We had two homeless pupils at my school and I’d always ask my dad for extra money to get them food. He’d always tell me to invite them round for tea, that’s the kind of man he was.

Things in life happen to teach you, you’re always affected by your childhood too, for good or for bad.

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