Was I always going to be here? No I was not. I was going to be homeless at one time, a taxi driver, truck driver, or any kind of job that would get me a crust of bread. You never know what’s going to happen.
Rain had lashed down for most of the week, and as we rose on Sunday morning, for the first time we noticed the frost had kicked in and left a layer of sparkling ice in its wake.
As we met up, it was clear we knew how cold it was, another week, another layer of clothing on each of us. We sorted, tagged, and packed up. This week we decided to add to our bounty of chocolate bars with hot chocolate and chicken sandwiches.
We were busy from the off this time. We met with some regular faces, but lots of new ones too. And we thought this week might be a good time to share some stories, because everybody deserves a voice, right?
As Christmas approaches, our city is decorated with lights, shouting of good will and peace to all men, shops adorn beautiful window displays and the market stalls fill the air with Christmas songs. But we saw the best Grotto of them all. One of the Forster Square arches clad with Santa signs, snowmen and tinsel. Why? Because the man (Woody) who slept their wanted to spread the festive joy. He just wanted to make people smile. Because he explained, “just because I am homeless, it doesn’t mean I’m not human”. That was one of the most humbling things we’d heard. Of course he is a person too, just like us and you. We loved it. We stayed a while and chatted, feeling festive and thankful that he had shared his Christmas spirit with us. We can’t wait to get back next week, he has big development plans for it!
We were giving out drinks when a chap approached us. He told us how he had donated to the cause, that it had struck a chord, now happily married with children, he had once been homeless. Sleeping in local woodland, doing all he could to keep warm and nourished. He spoke to the people we had met. Shared stories and gave advice. We all stood back and took it in. It was magical. One man who could give frank and honest advice, because he had been where they were. He did more that evening than we could ever do, no matter how many coats, drinks or sandwiches we gave out. He gave hope. He was homeless, but he’s human.
We spoke to an ex serviceman. He’d served three tours for queen and country yet found himself in a situation he didn’t feel strong enough to get out of. Finally he had taken the courage to ask the British Legion for help, something he had been too proud to do until now. But he had taken the step, for him a giant leap to change his situation. And as he waited on news of some housing, with grand plans to turn his life around, we hoped this would be the last time we saw him on the streets. He’s homeless, but he’s human.
We met a man, face to the ground, scanning the area for something to eat. A muslim man banished from his family for drinking. We spoke of the western culture, a generation where life is so different to the religion he had once loved, and lived by. “Does God not accept us for who we are?” he asked. How do you answer that? So now he wanders the streets, thinking of a family that couldn’t accept him, that wouldn’t accept him. He’s homeless, but he’s human.
And Thomas, how can we forget Thomas. Slightly jealous that Woody’s Grotto was apparently getting attention on social media he insisted on being in a photograph with us. He packed the sleeves of his coat with chocolate and sandwiches. Thomas has one of the best sense of humours ever, quick witted, dry, a typical British humour. His life is seemingly taking a positive turn with the help of a new key worker. He was hopeful and upbeat, and looking forward to whatever the future may bring. He’s homeless, but he’s human.
We met a couple last week. She was shy, reserved, maybe you could even say embarrassed at first. He adored her, anyone could see. His eyes lit up when we spoke about her. They told us their story. For the rest of the week it’s all we pretty much thought about, and talked about. This week we met up with them again. This week she was chatty, relaxed, at ease. Which was a good thing, because the last thing you want for a pregnant woman is to cause them stress.
It starts with that all important test. Weeks go on, excitement mounts. Picking out a cot, tiny scratch mitts and baby showers. The breath taking moment seeing the life you created on a screen, the heart warming feeling of that first flutter. Perfect right?
So imagine being offered shelter over 120 miles away from the father of your child, your soul mate, your everything. And when you say no, no I need to feel the safe arms of my partner around me at night, he just wants to take the journey of the little life we have made alongside me, please don’t break up my family, you are declared voluntarily homeless. So you have nowhere to go. The communication between you and your family is so fractured you can’t seek refuge with them. There is nowhere to turn. Your refuge becomes the cold ground, a doorway, anywhere, everywhere under the stars. The arms of your soul mate aren’t unpacking the self assembly cot, or building the pram. Instead he has one arm around you, giving you his body heat, and one across your stomach, protecting that brand new life. And because you are voluntary homeless there isn’t actually any call for anybody to rehouse you. Because this is your choice right? You chose to fight to keep your family together.
The moment the soon to be dad pulled out the neatly folded scan picture from his pocket and proudly shared his son or daughter with us is the moment your heart cracks, breaks, shatters. As he did, the pride beamed from him. Just like any expectant parent, full of love.
He’s homeless, but he’s human.
She’s homeless, but she’s human.
They’re unborn child, homeless, but human.
If you would like to find out where you can drop donations, please message us via our Facebook page by searching, project winter coat or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org