Friday, 8 September 2017

Man's Best Friend


It’s the last day of the Summer holidays

One of those gorgeous pre-Autumnal days where the sun shines brightly but the gentle breeze cools. A great day for sitting and chatting.

Simon sits in front of the old BHS store with Bella, his dog. I notice his well-used Subway cup, a few 2p’s making dull shapes on the bottom of the white, waxy container. I immediately fuss his dog, as he feeds her snippets of a pie, and as I admire her beautiful tortoise-shell coat. She looks healthy and well looked after.

Looking a little tidier than some rough sleepers, I notice Simon wince in pain. He has a problem with his back, exacerbated by sitting on the floor. His bedding seems to do little to alleviate the problem.

Being a curious soul, I ask him how he got here and am pleased that he was willing to allow me to write down the gist of our conversation in this blog, providing that his identity isn’t shared.

A : “Six years.”
Q : “What’s that?” I enquire.
A : “Six years I’ve been on the streets now.”

All I could say in response was “Wow.” It sounds like a very long time.

He used to run a little business; he is an underfloor heating engineer. Living with his father and brother, he lost both family members in quick succession. Within a short period of time, his son also passed away and he “lost it all”.

Q :  “Why can’t you be rehoused?”
A :  “They won’t take the dog.”

As an animal lover, I can completely understand this, however it raises an interesting point. Why should service providers take on his dog? One of my dear friends has just rented an affordable flat which stipulates no animals…she would love a cat but accepts that she can’t afford a property that would allow this (i.e. renting a house/flat or getting a mortgage). She is sad but sees this as a choice.

I don’t know what the answer is. Animals can be every bit our best friends in the same way as humans can, and given the amount of loss in this man’s life, can you see why he wouldn’t want to let her go?

I thank him for telling me his story and drop some change in his cup. The rights and wrongs of giving to be discussed in another blog post.

An aside to that…people have asked, how do you know these stories are true?

I don’t.

I do however, have means of corroborating some of the stories, as I spend time regularly getting to know the homeless people of Watford. 

I’m undertaking this project with honesty, so if I find a few ‘tall tales’ retrospectively, I will add corrections in the next blog.