20 September 2022

Trying to fight homelessness

One day I went to the local shop, and I was addressed by a man with a dog who had fallen onto hard times and was wondering if I had some change. I did, and we had a nice chat.

The UK is not a welfare state. Especially since more than a decade of tory rule, and a long period of austerity, and now the added cost of living crisis; once you are on the street, it is hard to come off. So that was not the last time I saw him.

Over time I saw him regularly. And that lead to me coming to like him, and starting to trust him. I am totally aware that if you are kind to people, it can backfire! But with him with never backfired. And because it never did I was comfortable giving him money when he needed some. He didn't seem to be the person to then become too pushy or otherwise  unpleasant.

We ended up on first name terms; his name is Michael and his dog is called Bailey. And if I wouldn't see him for a while I would start to worry. Would something have happened to him? But he always reemerged sooner or later.

At some point I trusted him enough to show him where I live. I am always a bit hesitant to do that! But now he knows. And if he now is in a situation where he needs a bit of help even more than standard, he can knock on my door. He sometimes does that.

One night I was ready for bed and then there suddenly was a knock, but it was unusually fast. I went and opened the door, and there was no one! But one of the plant pots near my door had been placed right in front of the door, with an old broken roof tile on top of it. I didn't quite understand what that meant. But since there was nobody to be seen, I closed the door again. Then I had an epiphany. I opened the door again and grabbed the roof tile. And indeed, it had a message on it! It was from Michael, of course. His state of mind had been such that he hadn't wanted to see anyone, but he was in dire straits. And the roof tile had his number on it. So I texted him to say that I was okay to help.

A very Bethesda way of communicating

With him knowing where I live and having my number and also autumn having come, it became both tempting and easy to contact me and ask for more support, so at some point I had to say I couldn't keep things up like that. I am really happy I can make a difference in his life. If I would be in this situation, and I am not naive enough to think that that couldn't happen, I would want to have someone I could turn to when times would get especially hard. But there are limits to how much money I can just give away to someone who is a mere acquaintance. I think we need to find a new balance.

On a grander scale, though, he shouldn't be in this situation. They should be a lot more centralised support for people in a situation like his. That's what taxes are for! But this country seems to think that taxes should be low. And one day when I bumped into him I had just decided I should try to write to my MP and my AS (member of the Welsh Senedd) in order to get their attention to the situation. And then Michael pointed out a bloke who walked past. He said it was the local MP. And I don't think so; I know what my MP looks like and this wasn't him. But he may well be some other local politician, so I went after him, and addressed him. He said he was in the local council. Good enough for me! I explained the situation to him and said that I was worried about Michael and that there should be more support for someone like him. And he did listen! And pulled out a notebook, said he was going to take his details, turn around and vanished. And he really did. He said he was going to try to make something happen. I really hope he will! And I am sure the council has had its budget cut to within an inch of its life, but still; a council is a lot bigger than just me, and therefore has more potential for making a fundamental change. I really hope something will happen and he can turn his life around!

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