Posted below is another transcript from interviews with food parcel recipients at Oldham foodbank on 5 December.
This interview made me wonder again where our world went so disgustingly wrong. Plenty of people wonder about that, of course, but there are times when you really ask yourself.
We have Theresa May and her gruesome cabinet playing Brexit and stuffing themselves with holiday food, and then we have people who literally eat and sleep on the pavement.
It’s unfathomable that such excess exists alongside such poverty in the modern age. We don’t need to do this. We know how to feed, clothe and house people. We have the resources to do those things. We just don’t. I can’t tell you how much I hate “reformers” who insist that an individual’s extreme poverty is entirely that individual’s responsibility. Personal responsibility is neither here nor there in such situations. Societal responsibility is the part that matters. That’s the part that is missing. We’re in a place where extreme poverty persists and is allowed to persist.
The Oldham interview was with Roy, 64.
Roy said he was homeless – not a situation you particularly want for a 64-year-old. Roy’s clothes were unwashed and crumpled, and his glasses smeared and greasy. He was working on a crossword when I sat down at his table.
“Cruciverbalism – that’s what crosswords are,” he said. “Cruci – cross. Verbalism – words.”
Roy wasn’t sure which benefits he received. He got a payment each month, so the benefit might have been Universal Credit. Roy said that he was staying on and off in Chadderton on the couch of a “friend” who charged him for the privilege (no doubt the repulsive Theresa May would say Roy’s occasional access to that couch meant he wasn’t homeless):
“He [the friend] is not a very kindhearted person. He’s always after money and I’ve got no money. [I] got some benefits. They only come in once a month. Me bank balance is now down to £1.99 … I don’t know when I get paid again. I have to go to the bank again to check me statement. I don’t know. It might be two weeks.”
Roy was waiting to speak to one of the foodbank volunteers. He hoped that she could help him find accommodation that night. He was worried about having to sleep outside, as well he might have been. Oldham freezes in winter. There was ice on the streets that day:
“The lady over there [the foodbank worker] – she’s very helpful. She’s like a careworker. I wanted to see her today, because I’m homeless outside… it’s not nice in this weather….I got evicted from me last place…bedroom tax. Got evicted for not paying it.”
I don’t know if Roy had a drinking or addiction problem. Doesn’t matter if he did. Backstories interest me less and less. I can’t be bothered picking through people’s histories for evidence that people do or don’t deserve the basics (which is the main reason anyone picks through back stories these days). Everyone deserves the basics. All that matters is the present – that there are people who live in dreadful states while others have everything. Who cares what has gone before in people’s lives?
I tell you this – I doubt Damian Green will pay this kind of price for his past.
Interview transcript (Oldham foodbank, Tuesday 5 December 2017)
“I come here at least probably once a week. People are nice, the staff are nice and the lady over there… she’s very helpful. She’s like a careworker and I wanted to see her today because I’m homeless outside… yeah… it’s not nice in this weather.
I got evicted from me last place, so…bedroom tax. Got evicted for not paying it…
See – the council come around. I lived in…the place where I was evicted from was a two-bedroom place, two-bedroom cottage flat, me and me mother.
Me mother become very ill and had to go into a carehome, so that left one bedroom empty. During this time, a council come around to insulate the loft. They went up there and it took them a week or something like that, but up in the loft, just above where the steps go, I had been saving some money out of me benefits to pay for me mother’s funeral because I knew that she wasn’t going to get better. Continue reading