Down & Out in Bournemouth & Poole: Day 21: Better Off Inside Than Out

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This story should really start with the tale of A. but it doesn’t, it starts with the tale of a sorry looking Polish homeless guy & his two litres of cider. The sorry looking Polish guy told us a dreadful tale about having lain on a bench in Poole Park fast asleep & being beaten black and blue by a pack of feral youths, the story was probably true.

Now fast forward to an encounter with a young lady I choose to refer to as ‘Edina’.  When a woman working as a security guard at the local shopping mall ( therefore used to dealing with thieves) encountered her, she was so moved by the pitiful sight of this rain drenched woman wearing a ruck sack, carrying an expensive looking leather handbag, and dragging a coffin sized wheelie suitcase behind her, that she took her in from the bus station, bought her a coffee and listened to her tale of woe. We were the next set of people to encounter ‘Edina’ and the story she had to tell moved me to tears & then angered me.

‘Edina’ had been abandoned by her boyfriend who had disappeared ‘up north’, she had been forced to move out of her home, and had taken to the streets with nothing but the luggage she carried and of course the clothes she had on. She had worked in London City and was of course looking for work in ‘banking’ down here, but until she found work she was obliged (like us) to sleep rough. It was a tragic tale and since she was a woman all alone, both I and my partner and another more seasoned homeless lady determined that we would ‘look after her’.

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There is a saying ‘without the rule of law the life of man would be nasty, brutish and short’ and we were about to discover how potentially nasty, brutish and short life can get. ‘Edina’ we found was very popular with men who would fall over themselves at the soup kitchens to find ways to help her out. Unusual, because although she seemed pleasant enough, she wasn’t physically striking, soup kitchen staff were also very attentive, listening sympathetically to her story and helping her out in any way they could find. The staff who worked for the homelessness project most likely to be able to provide housing, found themselves obliged to listen to her story a great deal.

A couple of days after this bereft female started sleeping in the same car park as us, an incident occurred which provided further food for thought. A former homeless guy turned up looking for someone who used to sleep on our floor and who had stolen his bike. He was so angry that he spent four hours engaged in conversation with the seasoned homeless lady on the floor below ours (we’ll call her Bea), whilst waving around a knife. Eventually he wound up on our floor making conversation, calmed down, ditched the knife with Bea and then wandered off into the night.

The following morning at the local Crime Reduction/Rough Sleeper Team coffee & toast session ‘Edina’ loudly and innocently enquired if the knife she had seen on the floor that morning had been Bea’s, knowing full well that it wasn’t, and doing so in the hearing of council employees whose job it was to report on these matters to the police. Bea, being more seasoned at sleeping rough than ourselves took one look at her and found some place else to sleep the following night.

Double-faced

Over the following days we found that ‘Edina’ had some eccentric practices, she habitually packed up at 5 am in the morning so the Rough Sleeper Team had no record of where she slept (not sensible if you intend to find council housing) and where she went no other homeless person (including those using drugs) appeared to know.

About a week later, purely because of the way Poole Homeless Community look out for each other, we found out she was meeting up furtively with her drug dealer. Now a number of people who are homeless use drugs but unlike this lady they didn’t feel the need to hide it. Then we found out something else, she had another boyfriend, a South African (Afrikaner) guy (also a drug dealer), who had only recently surfaced. We found these things out because some homeless mates felt that we needed to know, for the sake of our own physical well being.

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Edina it seemed had done her homework on us before posing as being bereft & vulnerable and she had come up with a game plan for getting herself and the South African drug dealer back on their feet. The plan included hooking up with a young man we knew & foolishly trusted (he’d done this sort of thing before with two other accomplices), and roping in his lover, the poor old Polish guy who appeared to be down on his luck (to us at least) and two other prolific robbers of homeless people.

Yes, it is possible to be homeless, on the streets, sleeping rough and still make almost fatal mistakes. The South African boyfriend proved to have a highly manipulative disposition (being a nasty variant of drug dealer) and this made the environment of the soup kitchens dangerous. My partner was enthralled with this man & his girlfriend though much to my relief there appeared to be police officers who were equally as enthralled.

By this point ‘Edina’ was trying not so subtly to manipulate us into giving her a large sum of money she was certain we must have (having done her homework so well!). The manipulation involved some of her ‘customers’ turning violently confrontational with me and with my partner in normally safe places that didn’t warrant confrontation. ‘Edina’ always made sure she was close by when these confrontations happened, and always made sure I got the point, if we wanted peace she’d need some cash.

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The lovely thing about being homeless in Poole is that when you choose to pull stunts like this, the whole homeless community knows about it; just as surely as they knew that the couple had lost the high life they’d been living, had a number of ‘legal’ problems alongside an abiding fear of black men & that they also hailed initially from South London & not Bournemouth as they had claimed. ‘Edina’ her South African boyfriend and their little ‘coterie’ of helpers are still around, but then so are certain police officers, and we though still homeless, are alot more alert and vigilant.

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