Homelessness is a political football. All parties pretend they will tackle it, but none of them do, or can. Why? Do they have the political will? Not really, but even if they did, there are so few options available to politicians to remedy the problem, that it is easier to just say that they will eradicate it rather than actually do anything.
It's a subject I've always felt compassion about because if you actually speak to a homeless person rather than just walk past them, you will discover that they are not a druggie, or a wino, or a tramp or a bum. Of course some are, but they became that way for a reason, but most of them are just men and women, or even kids, who have fallen on bad times, desperate with no one to turn to and no one to listen to them.
In 2012, I walked to work and each day I would pass this lad with nowhere to go and he was just sat on a concrete post with a carrier bag for a cushion, huddled in a blanket. At first I did what most people do, ignored him. I would walk past him day in, day out, but one day I noticed he was coughing furiously and I just asked him if he was OK. "Not really" he said. "But thanks for asking". I asked him if he had anything like cough medicine or things like that and he said he didn't. He had no money as he had no address and without an address they couldn't track him on the system. They had offered him a place, in Two Saints Hostel, but he refused as it was primarily a hostel for drug and alcohol abusers inwhich to rehabilitate, except they don't. And the lad did not want to be led down a path he might not be able to get to the end of. Anyway, I gave him twenty pounds. I told him to go to Wetherspoons, get a hot meal and a coffee and to use the rest to buy some cough medicine. He reluctantly took the money but think he felt awkward.
About a week later, I saw him curled up under a tree and his cough clearly not better. I went up to him and just touched his forehead to check he was OK. Boy was he hot, he was burning up. I couldn't believe that in 21st Century Britain, there were demands from MP's to be charitable to migrants and people even offered to house one, but Brits, like this young man were being ignored and forgotten about by their fellow countrymen, the same countrymen willing to open their homes to foreign visitors. I phoned in work and told them I wouldn't be in, and I helped the young man to his feet and told him he was coming home with me, he needed someone to look out for him.
I settled him on the sofa, gave him the chance to be warm before suggesting he shower (which he willingly did) and I gave him some fresh joggers and a tee-shirt to wear. After a couple of days his cough did get better, I just kept dosing him up with paracetamol and Nurofen and with a combination of that, hot meals, warmth and a clean and quiet place to sleep, he recovered.
After a couple of weeks I sat down with him and told him we needed to evaluate the situation, and he told me why he was homeless. He was 23 years old. He lived with his dad, his mum had died when he was 7. But his dad beat him up, constantly. When he was 19 he had his ribs broken. So, he left and tried to live his dads sister but his dad had turned his aunt against him. So, he had no choice other than just find somewhere to kip. The council offered him the Two Saints placement but he refused as it would remind him of the violence he encountered with his father.
I went with him to the council offices who said he had to apply to go on the housing list, but as he was homeless they could fast track him a place, but it would require him going to Two Saints. Something he was not prepared to do. Without him going to a homeless hostel and registering as homeless, there wasn't anything else they could do. They also wanted proof of his fathers address and he was terrified at the thought of involving his father. But reluctantly he gave them his fathers address and thankfully, when they checked it out, they were given the confirmation that Aidan (the lads name) was being truthful. The father was aggressive and told them Aidan was not allowed to go home. After a ploy by myself to get him housed, he agreed to go to Two Saints, but he would spend the day 8am - 10pm in my flat and just go to the hostel and his room to sleep. This went on for two and a half months and eventually he was given a studio flat by the Housing Authority. He took the flat and got himself a job driving for Sainsbury's delivering online Grocery orders. He is now a department manager in Sainsbury's in Theale and is getting married and has a child on its way. He sends me a Christmas parcel of luxury food every year and keeps in touch. He called me his guardian angel.
Sometimes you have to see things for more than they appear. Sometimes people just need a bit of luck. I actually am very fond of Aidan. He's like a foster son to me, he never once abused my hospitality and showed nothing but gratitude and kindness towards me. I just urge people to say hello to the homeless, don't ignore them. Before anyone offers their home to a foreign stranger, they should really ask themselves why are they not doing the same for a Homeless, and desperate British person.