In part to assuage my leftie conscience, partly as an expression of my wibbly-wobbly faith, I go out on the streets with Gloucester City Mission.
Today was hard. Today was the day I would have chosen to take the street people's elected representative out with me for an appreciation of how the bottom third live.
Some of it's good. The Day Centre for the homeless is bright and comfortable with facilities for making drinks, and occasional meals.Today, a nurse was visiting, checking on the expectant mothers, dispensing prescriptions... .
Some, not all. Marta is heartbroken because her partner Vlad drowned in the canal last week. She has so little English that reporting him missing was almost impossible. And what does she do now? She's destitute, lives in a tent, has no money to bury her dead. I am told that street people who die often spend months in the morgue while bureaucrats wrangle over who pays for the funeral. The cost of a funeral is less than that of keeping a body on ice for six months. But hey! The paperwork 's in order.
Dave has osteoporosis and lung disease. He has a debilitating condition brought on by a wheat allergy, that is still in the process of being diagnosed. He is depressed and anxious because he was declared fit for work last week by a doctor who's name he doesn't know, who couldn't even offer the dignity of politeness. His own doctor testifies that Dave is unfit, but - what would he know?
You should have seen the appeal I wrote - stuffed with facts the State doctor should have known, or should have taken into account. I used long words and proper punctuation. I was polite.
Well, I have returned to my beautiful home ten miles from the city centre. I guess after a glass of wine and a good meal, I shan't mind quite so much.