Jack grew up in care from eight years old. Jack was pretty much failed by his mother, then the system, then his mother again. Jack thinks it is him that, and I quote, “is a f*ck up”. We think Jack is one of the most genuine people we have met on our journey.
Jack went to Niche for his Christmas dinner and was kitted out with lots of clothes. Jack hid the clothes, as they all do, along with another man. Jack left the building 20 minutes after the other guy. The other guy walked at the other side of the street and hurried on by carrying a black bin liner. That black bin liner contained the things he had been given, plus Jack’s hidden belongings.
The other guy survives.
Woody never got any help for housing since the ‘arches evictions’. Since he was given ten minutes to move what he could and his world was thrown on the back of a council van, tip bound. Woody sleeps elsewhere now. Tonight Woody strutted across the street with the new clothes we gave him. Like Superman he reappeared from the phone box with fresh threads on. His spirits high once again, a far cry from the shadow of his former self we saw last week. No longer did he see no way out, but was once again hopeful and full of his contagious charisma. Woody does what he has to, to get by. And for that, although we don’t really want to know about it, we admire his determination.
Tonight we thought we had found a body in a deep dark corner of the city. In a place tucked away, a place damp and cold, like something from a film. The kind of film that sees you hiding behind a cushion, or the kind where your hands, without knowing, crawl up to protect your eyes. Where curiosity pulls your fingers apart, and you don’t want to but you can’t help but look. Our hearts hit our throats with a clatter. We stood motionless for what felt like forever. That body turned out to be nothing but a folded duvet and a trick of the eye caused by the haunting light in the deep dark corner, hidden in our beautiful city. That was someone’s home for the night.
Hopefully they survive.
The man who showed us the ulcers on his leg. Struggling to pull his rain drenched jeans above the swelling on his ankle. Revealing skin so infected we stood in shock at how he genuinely was still walking around. We implored him to go to the hospital, to get any sort of help. With infection so bad the reality is that he could become really sick.
The man may not survive.
Our pregnant couple were nowhere to be seen tonight. They didn’t come and find us, they weren’t hiding in any of the usual shadows. We can only hope one of the viewings they went to see this week turned out to be successful. We were somewhat sad we hadn’t seen them, worried of their fate. But hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they were sat in their new home preparing for the next chapter in their lives.
Maybe they’ve survived.
Maybe their unborn child will survive too.
We realised tonight, it’s not actually homelessness that bothers people. As long as it’s out of sight. Because if you can’t see it, it isn’t real. Right?
But what we know is that is doesn’t matter how tightly you close your eyes, or your mind, it takes nothing away. Homelessness is everywhere. Moving them on and pushing these people to the dark corners of the city where even shadows daren’t go only serves to ease the conscience of our local authorities in their plight to improve the image of our city.
And so we will continue to go out every week to help our friends survive. For no other reason than to try to make a difference, no matter how small. We will continue to take food, hot drinks, clothes and hope. And we will shine lights on those deep dark corners of the city so the shadows dare to dance. And we will more than likely dance with them, probably hand in hand. Let’s not allow the people of the streets to be shadows anymore. Let’s tackle this head on.
Let the shadows survive. After all, that’s what we all try and do. Survive. Don’t we?
Take a moment to think about it. What would you do to survive?