A bit about how quickly people end up back on the streets, homeless:
Yesterday, I planned to meet James, 50 and Vance, 43 – two Oldham guys I’ve been spending time with over the last couple of months. Both James and Vance have been in and out of street homelessness over the years. We’ve talked a lot about that.
Vance was finally placed in a flat in Oldham last year. He invited James to move in one day when he found James trying to sleep on the concrete landing outside Vance’s flat.
“He [James] was sleeping outside on the landing. I can’t see that, because I’ve been homeless meself…I did if for years meself. I slept on the streets, but I got sick of sleeping on the streets, so I bought a tent. I lived in a tent for five year. It is very cold and wet… and with snow. You can’t sleep.”
That arrangement went well until very recently.
The first thing I noticed was the guys didn’t show up for the Tuesday lunch we meet at in Oldham’s Salt Cellar building. Fair enough, I thought. Maybe they’d had a few drinks. The rules about turning out for lunch after a couple of cans are strict at some lunch places. You hear about people being asked to leave.
Maybe it was something else. I called James to see if he was in anywhere in town. He answered. He wasn’t in town. He sounded stressed. He said that some guys had thrown him out of Vance’s place very late a few nights back – not Vance, but some other people who hung around. He said they’d hit him and told him to leave and so he’d left. He was staying with someone else for a few days, but this was not a permanent arrangement.
“I’ll be back to being on the street again,” he said. He sounded panicky, as well he might. It’s cold out at the moment and always raining.
I asked James if he’d been to First Choice Homes to tell them about his problem and to see if they could find him anywhere to stay. He said that he had and nothing had come of it. I said I’d go with him later this week. He sounded reluctant. He said that he’d get nothing. Generally, he gives bureaucracies a wide berth these days. I’ve written about some of the reasons for that.
Anyway. There we were.
I have conversations like this from time to time. It’s difficult to offer answers, not least because there aren’t any. I can say this, though – conversations like this one are the reason why I will never get on board with notions of deserving or undeserving social security recipients. The fact is that everyone deserves shelter. In particular, everyone deserves shelter at a time of crisis. It doesn’t matter what a person has “done” in life to arrive at the sort of situation described here. All that matters right then is that a person is in this sort of situation. Nothing else is relevant. You have a bloke in his 50s on the phone who knows that he is on his way to sit out in the rain. Only a sociopath would interrupt him to say that he had it coming. Theresa May et al ought to take a few of these calls and see if they feel like passing judgement right then, at the actual point that someone is headed onto the street. No doubt they would.