Sunday, 5 February 2012

action for today

deep and crisp and even

On my recent travels I was in Kings Lynn on the northern coast of Norfolk. It is a picturesque town with a long history as a port. The town center is typical of most town centers and so I could have been any where in the UK. The weather was bitterly cold and I was chilly even though well clothed and well fed. To be out in the open was challenging. In a side street a young man was shivering in the cold and mumbling to him self. He was a little younger than my own son Luke. he had a card board sign that stated he was homeless and sleeping rough. I gave him some money and he blessed me. I felt impotent. I was reminded of all the good things in my life and how any of us might lose it all due to the twists and turns and the vagaries of our lives.
A little further along the same street an old man was dancing and playing a truly battered acoustic guitar that had no strings. He strummed and swayed like a man lost in his own strange muse. He was filthy and his clothes were ragged. His eyes were dim and he seemed so isolated from the people who passed him by only feet away from where he stood. I have not seen a more desperate pair of men for a very long time.


The Busker Man

See the busker man
ragged like a fading 
shooting star
As dirty as the chimney sweep's
little boy
climbing through the dark
Dancing like St Vitus
he strums imaginary strings
on his guitar

So many reasons to walk on by
turn away - avert your eyes

See the younger man
trembling like a leaf
upon a storm
He said I'm freezing
in the sunshine
and I'm driven to the wall
She's reaching for some money
he looks at her
with eyes gone some where warm

So many reasons to walk on by
turn away - avert your eyes

copyright edgar broughton - one songs

It strikes me that we frequently make judgements about people begging which divide them into “the deserving” or “undeserving” poor.  I pondered on the criteria I sometimes use, consciously or not, prior to putting my hands in my pocket.  Is it about the possibility that they will spend my hard earned money on booze or drugs?  Could they be conning me and they have a large house in an upmarket area of town, receive a fortune in benefits, using begging as a sideline?  Will they spend the donation I give in a way that I might not approve?
Due to the extreme temperatures we have recently had I have been more aware of the people I see in the town where I live.  There are some that are regularly seen in the same place. 2 days ago I went into town and stood beside a man who I have occasionally spoken to before and have given money to.  After 5 minutes I really felt the need to move on as, despite being well dressed for the freezing temperature, it was almost unbearable to stay. If he, and others in his situation, were trying to take my money they were paying a massive price.  He said he was staying there until he could go to the night shelter at 8pm.  It was then 11am.
The local churches have set up a winter scheme where they open at night from 8pm to 8am and homeless people can go there for a hot meal, shower and change of clothes.  When they asked for volunteers to run this scheme on local radio they had more than double the numbers they needed.  I applaud this and wish them well with their endeavour. 
Act now - give what you can.



Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think some of these people bring it on themselves?

Anonymous said...

I don't think any one would knowingly expose them selves to the risks of living in the streets. Not every one has the ability to work around the worst misfortune that might happen to any of us and we'll never know how we might cope unless we experience the circumstances that first make a person homeless and with out means.
Today leading charities have stated that due to the governments changes to benefits for disabled people and their allegations of benefit fraud, disabled people are experiencing increasing prejudice in the streets.
It is your choice wether or not you give money to people in the street. personally I find it extremely difficult to walk on by, especially in this weather.
Yes we might get conned some times but I think it is easy to spot the very needy in the street.
So, please help if you can and take time to chat with homeless people sleeping rough if you can. A few words exchanged with a lonely person can make a significant difference to them. Jill

Anonymous said...

If anybody does, and they would be in the minority, 'bring 'it' on themselves' then one would imagine they have a bloody good reason for doing so. A lot of young people are sleeping rough as for them that is better than the alternative of been abused at home. What is their choice? There is no money to help them as we have a shit excuse for a government who would like to see the fictional world of Dickens become a reality which of coure it was in his day; and this is progress?

The only people I can think of that bring sleeping rough on themselves are the idiots in sleeping bags waiting for the Next sale to start and they deserve to freeze for being such a waste of breathing space.


Anonymous said...

I've been cycling around Blackpool today. It's an incredible place. I cycled past 18 listed buildings, street art and sculpture, the comedy carpet (2 acres of comedy quotes forever preserved in granite), the fantastic theatrical architecture of Frank Matcham, the extraordinary vision of John Bickerstaffe who built the Blackpool Tower and the scrumptious shrimps from Robert's Oyster Rooms. This was a town built for the cotton workers to spend their annual savings.

Today, one in four people in Blackpool live entirely on benefits. Most 16 to 25 year olds are unemployed. Step back from the promenade and many former 'boarding houses' are now houses of multiple occupancy. There are many homeless. I cannot imagine how anybody can suggest that 'these' people bring it on themselves. These? A nasty connotation there. Even in work here, the average salary for a care worker is less than £13,000 a year. Yes, that's right, would you fancy living in London on 13 grand a year?
It's bitterly cold. Not the night to be homeless when the drip freezes on the end of your nose.

Peace and understanding,

Paul by the sea.

Brian J. C. Upton said...

the man that says he is homeless & disabled may well be one day .... what goes around comes around

Anonymous said...

The other evening there was a blue flash and all my lights went out and my heating went off. A leak through my bathroom light fitting had caused this. Unable to figure out how to isolate the lights on the fuse box, especially in the dark, I sat in the dark as the temperature dropped. The temperate that day was -10. In the short time before it was fixed I had a glimpse in to a very dark, cold world and whilst I am by no means comparing my situation to the plight of the homeless it did make me see how easy it is to take things for granted.