Once upon a time.

If we thought it had been cold on our previous outings, it paled in comparison to Sunday. We woke up to snow gently falling and sitting quietly on the surface it chose, quietly contemplating whether to stay or go. All day we had commented how cold it had dropped. Still, we weren’t quite prepared for such a chill. The cold snatched our breath, forming clouds that danced around us casting shadows with the help of the street lights.

We packed up and set off in good time. Last week our friends had settled down for the night earlier than previous nights. As the cold weather punishes, the sensible thing to do is to find shelter and try to maintain the little body heat that the ice cold hasn’t yet stolen.

We took to the side of the Alhambra, taking our usual route, to the usual places where we meet and share donations. The panto had just finished and we managed to get a couple of celebrity endorsements! They were keen to hear what we were doing, and so we happily shared our story. Who knows, maybe they will share it, and maybe other people will feel like they too can make a difference.

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We saw quite a few of our usual friends, huddled up in blankets in doorways desperately trying to maintain some sort of heat. It seemed our offerings of food and hot chocolate was welcomed more than any night before.

We met a new friend. A young man from Lithuania who sat in a doorway so he could access the free wifi. He sat there each day so he could contact his sister back in his homeland. He had come here to work but had fallen on hard times and now had nowhere to lay his head, nor did he have the money to get home. To get any help from the government or council he had been told he needed a residency order. But he couldn’t get one. Imagine actually having no choice, no way to help yourself, no way home. Imagine being completely lost in the world. How must that even feel?

We spent quite a bit of time with Paul and Lady. She was snug as a bug in a rug! Tucked up in blankets and a coat, toasty warm. Paul, as usual putting his beloved dog before himself. He said thank you to us for sharing the donations and giving them food and drink. He said Lady couldn’t speak, so he would speak for her. As he said that the most wonderful thing happened. Lady got up from her warm and safe bed and came over to each of us, giving a little lick on the hand and allowing us to give her a pat. It was as if she was saying, “don’t you worry, I can speak for myself!” She was once so nervous at our presence, but now she completely trusted us and was happy to be our friend.

Paul had a friend alongside him. It was the first time we had seen him. It turned out he was new to the streets. We can’t go in to details as his situation is with solicitors and we don’t want to  jeopardise anything where that is concerned. But it left us completely sickened. When did we as humans stop caring? When did empathy sit so low on the list that is became an after thought? Money may make the world go round, but it doesn’t make your heart smile and it doesn’t gently take you in it’s arms at the end of a bad day and make your heart warm. It reminded us of just how quickly life can change, that life is precious and we should never take anything for granted.

There was no appearance of Woody. We looked forward to seeing him, we always walked away from our conversations smiling and honestly believing that no matter what your circumstances, there is always time to feel thankful for what you have, and of course, always time to smile.

For about the third week we haven’t seen the pregnant couple. We all genuinely feel full of hope that they are settled, warm and safe as they prepare for their new life, and their new family. Maybe happy endings do happen after all. Maybe fairytales aren’t just a thing we can only dream of…

Wrap yourselves in love people. And don’t ever stop.

As always, if you wish to find out how you can donate, you can find us on Facebook at Project winter coat. Or contact us at projectwintercoat@outlook.com

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