We raised £302 for Crisis! Thank you so much, because now I have doubled that through work we’ve managed to get 27.5 places at Crisis for Christmas.
I was feeling really good about this on Saturday when I talked to my Mum at the shop she works in, in Bumpkinstown. Bumpkinstown is a way up the road from Bumpkinsville and a way up in the money stakes too. It’s rather well to do, so it surprised everyone to discover through the local newspaper that there is a homeless lady who sleeps with her two elderly dogs and a couple of overflowing shopping trolleys in the bus shelter.
Mum and I talked about how sad it was, I said that in raising money I’d done my bit and I started back to the car.
‘Done my bit?!’ I suddenly realised what I had said and gave myself a good telling off. How far up my own backside did I have to be to think that raising money made it ok to walk past someone who needed real help?
As luck would have it, the lady was at the bus station as I walked through. She is known for being a bit shouty, so I won’t pretend I wasn’t nervous, but I stopped and asked if I could give her a bit of money to help feed the dogs – it seemed like the least offensive option, and stopped for a chat. She is clearly as mad as a box of frogs, but between the ranty bits, she turned out to be a lovely lady called Christine. I asked if there was anything useful I could do and she asked if I lived locally. What Christine most wanted, it turned out, was to have one of her jackets and her trousers washed. We hit a bit of a snag in that she didn’t know where her one other pair of trousers were so she decided she would find them overnight and give them to me when I came back with the jacket at 10am the next morning.
10am Sunday, Sister 2 and I arrived with a clean jacket and a few other bits –new tracksuit bottoms, fleece, knickers, socks, a thermos of soup, chocolate, dog treats and blankets for the dogs. Christine was so excited by the tracksuit bottoms that she stripped there and then to put them on. Everything else she considered carefully and then decided to keep. The fleece though, she announced I should bring back when it got really cold as it is warmer than her current one and she would rather have it when she really needs it. She gave us her old trousers and a dog bed to take home to wash and we arranged that Mum would take the trousers back on Monday, I’d keep the dog bed a few weeks and then go and swap it for the other one she has.
Then we all went for coffee. Dogs and one shopping trolley included. I won’t go into too much detail, but this lady is in her late 50’s, has no family, has slept rough for seven years and I think it is safe to say she has some mental health issues. She also has an amazing sense of humour, a beautiful face and an utter devotion to her dogs. I’ve seen in the local paper that she has ‘agencies trying to help her’. Based on what she told us, I imagine that it will take her a long time to trust anyone enough to accept real help.
I thought twice about writing this. I didn’t want to be seen as doing any of the above for a blog post, or appearing to be a do-gooder or on a soapbox. But then Sister 1 mentioned it on Facebook. Quite a few people commented in a lovely way – they’d met Christine or her dogs or they felt they would try to do something similar. One though, was furious. Furious that we had ‘encouraged’ her to be homeless (I’d be amazed if a clean fleece and a new pair of trousers would encourage anyone to sleep outside, but maybe that’s just me). Furious that she shouted and disturbed people locally and felt she should be ‘locked up’ or at least ‘moved on’. I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but I was slightly stunned, partly because his ranting carried on for hours, but mostly that he had such anger for someone who, in her mind, has no other options. There are rumours she has money. There are rumours she has a house. Even if she has both, she is sleeping outside and the fact remains that she is a human being who deserves to be treated as one.
So I thought I would write this post after all, because it might prompt a bit of random TLC, which can only be a good thing. And it might help someone like furious man to see that EVERY human being, no matter whether they are well off, homeless, a good friend or a difficult stranger deserves a bit of kindness.
And also because I wanted to thank everyone who bought my hats, donated to the Secret Baker or just gave me pennies, just because the people who you have helped have a Christmas wont be able to thank you personally. Thank you, you lovely bods :o)
PS: I just contacted Mind to find out the best way to help in this scenario. They said unless an adult is a danger to themselves or others, the police can’t do anything. (Having an occasional rant, however loud, doesn’t count as either). If they are a danger, the police can organise for them to be sectioned. You can also contact your local social services and ask for the approved mental health professional to asses an individual. The same rules apply though – if you’re an adult and you are not hurting yourselves or others you do not have to accept treatment. They said the kindest thing, is to just be kind and try to understand that we’re all a bit different. Once an individual starts to trust people, they might just accept the help that gets them better. And personally, I think there is a little bit of madness in us all, so none of us can really judge :o)