We came home late last night to find a young man with a suitcase and a bin bag sitting on a step a few doors from our house. He looked nervous so we asked him if he was ok, and if he was waiting for someone. He said yes, and no. After bringing him a bottle of water and a banana, we found out that his mum had been evicted from her flat in Stratford, leaving her, two young children and the young man homeless. The council found an emergency room for the family, but it was deemed unacceptable for him to stay in it. He was told that as he was over 21 (barely) and able bodied, he needed to get on with it himself. Having looked into it this morning, Newham seem to have no homeless services to speak of.
He slept in the reception of the police station for a few nights, then stayed a night with someone he met there. That person robbed him while he was asleep and disappeared, after which his landlord turned up and threw the young man out because the thief was late with his rent.
So he walked, looking for somewhere that felt safe to spend the night, ending up sitting on the low wall a couple of doors down from us because it was well lit. It was his first night of properly sleeping rough.
We invited him to sleep on the sofa. I didn't actually sleep much myself, because I'm soft but not an idiot and therefore spent most of the night wondering if he was going to turn out to be a murderer, but he was out like a light until 8.30am, presumably because it was the first time in days he'd felt safe enough to relax. (I will caveat that we locked the front and back doors - with his knowledge - and quietly moved a couple of valuable items into the bedroom with us and our (shouty) dogs once he was settled in).
In the morning, after a shower, we gave him a bag to re-pack his bin liner into, an umbrella in case it rains, an old phone to put his SIM card into, a book to read, a blanket and a tenner. Then I put him on the phone to Streetlink and called him a (pre-paid) taxi to the day shelter they recommended in Edmonton. Apparently the best thing is to report yourself sleeping rough somewhere and then stay put until someone turns up to help you - which can take a couple of days. So it seemed better for him to report himself somewhere near a place that could help in the meantime. He had no idea of the services that were available to him or how to access them. He wasn't even sure which borough he was in. He just wasn't equipped to work out what to do next.
I don't know how long he'd been sitting there, or how many people had walked past him not thinking twice. We only spoke to him because I am a closet busybody and was fuelled by half a bottle of red at dinner.
Please, if you see someone who may be in a similar situation, push out of your comfort zone and talk to them. Offer them anything you can that might be useful, even if it's just looking up somewhere that can help and putting them on the right bus. Think about how much you rely on the internet, then imagine how capable you'd be without it.
The perception is that trying to help opens up a can of worms too upsetting and prolonged to deal with, so we don't even start. But the fact is that you can help someone who is completely lost in the world to make a small start in the right direction. Most of us are a short period of unemployment away from a similar situation and not everyone is homeless due to long term mental, addiction or social issues. And frankly, whatever the reason for their situation, it doesn't make them any less deserving of the small things you can do at little risk or cost to yourself.
Wow, the world needs more people like you! Well done!
I'm as crap as the next person. And a very lucky idiot that he was as harmless as he seemed. It just turned out that right outside my house is my upper limit for being able to ignore uncomfortable situations. It ended up a positive experience (so far) so I wanted to put it out into the world because often you hear a much more off putting narrative.
So what was the outcome? did he get in to accommodation? Are you still in contact? If you are maybe you could send him to New Horizons? http://nhyouthcentre.org.uk
He got to the day centre ok this morning. He has to report himself as sleeping rough and then stay in the spot he reported until Streetlink come and pick him up (possibly 2 days). Our number is programmed into his phone and he's able to text a request for us to call him without it costing him money, in case he gets into trouble.
Thanks for the info on New Horizon, just tried calling but they aren't picking up. Will check in and see how he's doing later today, if it doesn't sound promising will call New Horizon in the morning to see if going there could get him into the system quicker.
Yes Streetlink can be hit and miss. It can take days to be seen by an outreach worker and then he may be referred to the No Second Night Out Hub in Islington. If it is not full then he would be taken and have to wait for three days for an assessment. He can stay over night but there is no beds.
Is New Horizon a better bet? I'm just wary of telling him to start down another path if he might get sorted quicker by staying put. I know nothing about these things beyond what I can dig up on Google so all input much appreciated.
I would say yes as they work with young people only and are well connected. He should still try the Street Link way and get verified as a rough sleeper and get a chain number (this is a pan-London data-base of rough sleepers) but go to New Horizons during the daytime. He would need to be there before 10am to see an accommodation worker.
Thanks, will pass that on. Sounds like a good plan!
Absolutely - we run a house of hospitality for homeless people in Tottenham. We get phone calls every day from people looking for accommodation. We have seven beds and can't help everyone. Last week a solicitors office specialising in social care in South London found our number and now ring us every day for different clients for emergency accommodation. Yesterday it was for a 60 year old man who uses a simmer frame to walk and today it was a mother and three year old child who have been sleeping on the buses for the last three nights.