In Poole, the numbers of those sleeping rough falls significantly during the Winter, this must be a source of much reassurance for the local council, though not for those sleeping rough. Suicide Sundays is what they, the rough sleepers, call them. These may be days on which there are no church based charities open to provide warmth, shelter and a hot meal. The lack of human contact, of care and a little comfort, can push people to the brink and beyond. There are some in Poole who would shed ne’er a tear over this, after all are they not undeserving anti-social parasites who clamour for free council housing? That was the assertion made by our ex-landlord who ironically resides in former council housing.
The people we met at ‘Routes to Roots’ the rough sleeper charity based at the United Reform Church on Skinner Street were a mix. From Jessie who was well dressed and yet carrying her belongings along in a mobile suitcase, to Alan who was fairly well organised with his sleeping bags, blankets and trolley carrying his personal possessions. Then there were the ex-cons high on ‘Spice’ a high energy gaggle of young men and women, the loudest in the church hall that night. The longer people have been sleeping homeless, the more mentally disorganised they seem to become and also the more inclined to whisper to themselves. I should imagine that in time some do become mentally unwell enough to warrant the council rehousing them, if they can find their way down to Poole Civic Centre and then fill out the various forms and attend the various appointments.
After a steaming hot Chicken Pie dinner followed by Worcester flavoured crisps, Richard and I wandered off with A. to the place where he beds down for the night. Earlier that day with the help of Poole police we were able to access the ex-landlord’s home and retrieve my waterproofs, a thick scarf (bought from Accessorise) a fleece, ribbed jumper and my teaching certificates. We still have no idea what the fate of our remaining belongings will be. Later that day, with a ribbed jumper stuck over a large t-shirt and covered by a large man’s pullover, then a waterproof barber and a waterproof jacket, plus the scarf, we headed off to view our sleeping spot for the night.
A concrete car park minimally strewn with fag ends and brightly lit, getting to sleep was difficult, alcohol would have helped but I had no Gin to hand. We eventually got to sleep and then were woken up by a drunk rough sleeper who’d lost his partner and wanted a fight. The guys slept lightly enough to be on the alert the minute he turned up, A. defused a situation that could have turned ugly. Dangerous situations when confronted can result in the most unlikely of folk winding up in prison. This was not the first time he had had to deal with something like this, A. is 22 years old, he has a job, but the council has no social housing available to offer him. A. told us that he was told by a council officer to show up at the council offices drunk and make a scene or come in with a needle hanging out of his arm, then, he assured him, he would be rehoused.