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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

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. 

Tags for Forum Posts: homelessness

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The golden era...when ska and down beat had their roots in Jamaican rock steady and before the odious National Front gave skinheads a bad name....interestingly my spell check wouldn't even let me type out the word skinhead just then... there's a corner of my heart that will always belong to ska, Stephen, so perhas as you say I've inadvertently exposed part of who I am

By the late 60s, there was already a strong Jamaican influence in Tottenham schools. Breaktime and days off were also spent passing records around. One that sticks in my mind : Children Get Ready - the Versatiles. very 1969.  One of our great teachers Mavis Straker: the mother of Peter Straker, who first found fame in Hair at London in 1968, would often dance along.

I was and still am a reggae man. 

Mum, three siblings - missing person? Or maybe more than one; (clue for those who need it - 19 June).

Sorry, don't get it Heather

Saving Private Ryan ?

A reference to James Ryan in the wrong thread ?

It is wonderful people like you exist! Thank you, you done the right thing.

Streetlink aren't always able to come and see people sleeping rough as soon as they'd like so a way for rough sleepers to get help quickly is to get them to 'bed down' outside a police station and have a member of the public report they are there. Apparently the police have a 'hotline' that enables help to come quicker. The homeless person cannot report themself however (cos that would be too simple wouldn't it???) so have to try and persuade a passer-by to go in and report them. 

Thank you, this is very useful for future reference. It's a labyrinthine system, isn't it...

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