It's about Billy.
We found Billy sitting on a crate outside what used to be The Night Shelter. It closed last February because of all sorts of reasons, one of them being that persons like Billy shouldn't be hanging about on the streets waiting for The Night Shelter to open, especially now that the rundown Docks area has reinvented itself as the 'Gloucester Quays Shopping Mall.'
He's drunk, and maudlin'. He sits here every day, because this was his home.. We gave him coffee and a sausage roll and a chocolate bar, and listen and listen. There's nothing we can do except listen, Tony, Maureen and I.
It's about Vicky.
Vicki was one of my students. I taught her more than twenty years ago when she was six years old. Seeing her, here, sitting next to Billy, with two friends, drunk and vulnerable, hits me hard. There are children I taught whose faces still haunt me. I remember Vicki because I saw a down-trodden, unloved child, whom I couldn't help in any other way than making her days in school as calm and 'normal' as possible. That she ended up drunk and on the streets , marred with the scars of self-mutilation, breaks my heart, but doesn't surprise me.
It's about Paul.
Paul had a room in The Kimbrose Hotel, a B&B that was filthy, and infested with cockroaches. It's used by Social Services to house people like Paul. After a year in residence, he complained to the Health Department about the cockroaches. The landlord was given five days notice of an inspection and Paul's name. The hotel was fumigated and Paul was evicted with a day's notice. He's angry. We listen and listen, but there's nothing we can do except offer a cup of coffee, a sausage roll, and a chocolate bar.
I go with others to meet officers in charge of services for the homeless, and listen to statistics.
I had a bright idea today.
"What we need to do Tony, is to sod the bloody statistics and tell stories." So that's what we will do, the next time we meet the well-meaning council officers. We'll take out our notepads and tell stories.