Thursday morning 4am. I was on my way to the radio studio to broadcast Dave's Disco the podcast from which was played on Saturday at the Dreamsai Lunch
of Love. I pulled up outside Milton Keynes Council's Civic Offices. I had a letter to push through the letter box, a letter complaining abut the council's failure to support a vulnerable adult. I knew I was wasting my time and the ink I had expended on a sheet of paper a waste but you have to go through the system don't you ? The wind was blowing a gale and it was lashing down with rain.
There I met BOB. That's not his real name of course.
4am, this man was walking along. He turned to walk towards my car then changed his mind and moved off again. I opened the door: Hang on mate - wait - what do you want ? I fumbled in the dark to find the letter to put through the council's letter box then stepped out to meet him.
Bob was a tall friend, I guess aged around thirty, who was soaked to the skin. I knew what he wanted. Or did I ?
Have you got a bit of change ? Off to buy some drugs. A homeless rough-sleeper in search of his fix. NO NO NO ! Homeless and rough-sleeping yes, soaked to the skin yes but he was NOT a drug addict. He was on his way to the all-night McDonald's primarily to be in the warm and out of the rain there to spend the few coins he had on something to eat. Even if he was begging for dug money I would have given him something - an addict is not a bad person but a victim of bad. I gave him money to buy a breakfast.
We then stood in the wind and rain talking for twenty or so minutes. What a lovely, beautiful man. Yes, he was homeless and rough-sleeping. His tent, just along the way from Milton Keynes Council's offices, had blown over. Many of his belongings had blown away, been picked up and stolen. Please do not tell me that Milton Keynes Council did not know he existed.
I talked to him about getting help but he knew the situation was futile. He said he wanted to get to Luton where the council is better at supporting homeless rough-sleepers. Is it ? I don't know. The important thing is that was his perception.
He had problems with his eyes but could not get any help. He is a non-person. NO HE IS A HUMAN BEING.
NO, he was not a drug addict. I know how to recognise an addict, trust me he was not one. He explained that he had been an alcoholic and went on to say how he was treated and escaped the situation. He told me how he had become homeless. His grandfather had been contributing £400 a month towards his rent. When his grandfather died the money stopped and the income he had working as a plasterer was not enough to pay for his private rented accommodation. I do not know if Milton Keynes was or was not the local authority - probably not and it does not matter but that local authority said it could not help. I said I did not know if it Was Milton Keynes Council or not, I can actually name SIX people the systems within Milton Keynes Council have in recent months have constructively made homeless. Not all ended up rough-sleeping but had it been left to the council they would have.
With every word of conversation my heart warmed to him, warmed while at the same bleeding.
I returned to the car and grabbed one of the information sheets I have for Dreamsai on which I list phone numbers of help lines, details of the soup run and food bank locations. These are deliberately laminated so the information is not affected by the rain. I told him about Saturday's Dreamsai Lunch of Love and begged him to come along. He said he would.
As we parted, me off to the radio studio and Bob to McDonald's he kept thanking me, shaking my hand and saying how pleased he was to have spent time with me. When I got to the radio studio I was soaked to the skin. I broadcast my 279th show, if you listen
to the podcast you will hear how the friendship we had experienced in the wind and in the pouring rain outside Milton Keynes Council's Civic Offices lifted the show to a happy and I hope inspiring level.
Bob did not turn up to Dreamsai's Lunch of Love. After it was over I went in search of him. I could not find him. Perhaps he had gone to Luton. Perhaps he had died. Who cares ? I CARE ! I am a human being, Bob is a human being, he is my friend and I CARE !