I was asked this week “Why do you do it”? And although I know most of you will know this already – it started with an elderly homeless man called Ben and his little dog Mia who we helped about four years ago…. he was living in a tent next to the canal and had been robbed, abused and was told to get help he would have to euthanise his little dog – his only friend – as he could not take her into emergency accommodation…..then came Paul who had fled domestic violence and survived a suicide attempt….. then Tony Verminphoned me when WSO very first went live and my Little Brother Joe Solostarted the rallying call over three years ago…..and now it is a way of life that never, ever lets up…..
What was intended to be a weekend of activism to help local communities has grown into a huge family across the length and breadth of the country – fighting back at Austerity and a system that catastrophically fails those most in need. And it is hard work, but it’s saving lives and it matters….I’d have cracked if it weren’t for the rest of the WSO Central team – Joe Solo, Tony Peter Wright, Stephen Goodall, Val Colvin, Matt Hill, Jamie Bramwell, Pete Yen and Steve White – and all the people in our links, especially Gemma Louise Whittaker and Infinity Initiatives and Lisa Shepherd and Scott Shepherd and the Impact team…. On Monday our hundredth person who needed a roof over their head moves into his new flat – and there are another half a dozen that are work in progress…. And here are some of the reasons I can’t stop – this week has been so emotionally and physically draining, but here is just some of what is happening – RIGHT HERE in Ashton – in OUR town…..
Yesterday I spotted a post from a young mum we helped when she was made homeless at eight months pregnant – after one hell of a struggle, she ended up in her own home with her newborn son….but due to one cock up after another she is now having to survive on £18 a week for food for both of them….this month she had vets’ fees too for her little dog, who she still sadly lost – and the result was that she just ran out of money…..she was trying to sell her clothes to survive…..people stepped up and donated some money to get her through – she’s picked that up today and now has £75 in cash as well as a bit more on the way via Paypal (thanks to Dez Richardson, Steve Blowers and Infinity)…..and we›ve got an appointment booked for her to get advocacy help with Infinity Initiatives next week as well – Gemma Louise Whittaker also sent a bag of treats for them both and Street Daryl Treatpitched in with a big box of fruit and veggies which she has shared with her sister who also struggles….. now this mum doesn’t drink, use drugs, smoke, go out….she just struggles to survive. That box of fruit meant that her toddler son tried an orange for the first time in his life today – with £18 a week for food for them both, every single penny counts and she simply cannot risk trying him with new food in case he won’t eat it….she can’t risk anything being wasted….so that little man waited this long to try an orange….and he loved it – so now she will try to add that into the shop she does…. Last night on the way home from seeing Joe play in Salford, we met a new homeless man on the streets – the fiver that I was handed at the gig from the sale of a hat went to feed him….This new lad in Ashton is called Lee and his new “home” is the doorway of Meeks shoes….I took him a packed lunch today and have promised I will see him when I do outreach every day – he opened the bag and he CUDDLED the fresh fruit…..my heart broke……he has promised that he will go to Impact for help next week as well – so hopefully we can get him some more long term support…..
Today a new lad arrived on my doorstep – he’s called Cristophe and he is going to Impact for help through the week – but there are no services available at the weekend and one of the other lads had told him he might be able to get food from We Shall Overcome at weekend….he was so hungry today when he arrived and I’ve told him he can come every weekend and will get a packed lunch here…. Another man arrived on my doorstep as we opened today – he is called Tommy and his wife is called Samantha. They have spent the last four months living in a tent which they pitch near a local park at night and they spend the days walking the streets. They have no address, so they didn’t know they could claim any benefits and they have been surviving by him picking up scraps of work here and there – he would love to work a proper job, but rough sleeping and with no address, he’s not been able to find a job… they became homeless when their tenancy ran out and their landlord decided to sell the property, so gave them notice to quit – they complied with that and then found out when they registered as homeless that they had made themselves intentionally homeless as they hadn’t waited to be physically evicted. He begged me to spare them any food I could and when I gave him a packed lunch for them both, he tried to bolt down the sandwich so quickly that he was gagging on it……he was in tears thanking me for A SANDWICH……I spoke to Samantha and she told me that she had given up today and was ready to end it all…..but I’ve arranged for them to come again tomorrow for food and again on Monday when I am getting them an appointment to see Impact and get some help with Infinity Initiatives too….
Samantha cried like a little girl when I told her we would get them the help they need. THIS is Britain in 2017 – this is what is happening to people who are vulnerable, scared, desperate and too frightened to argue back – last week two of the people we have been trying to help attempted suicide – thankfully unsuccessfully…. I worked out last night how many people I am feeding that we know are genuinely street homeless or alternating between sofa surfing and rough sleeping – and it is now somewhere between 26 – 30 on any given night – I could tell you where they sleep, but obviously I won’t….but that is up from just 3 or four only a couple of years ago on the town centre…..there is Jason, Danny, Mark, Rick, Young Mark, Little Mark, Richard, Stephen and Poppy, Terry, Christophe, Peter, Peter C, Big Matt, Peter and Bullseye, Ian, Lee, Tommy, Samantha, Copey, Ryan, Niall, Gareth, Keith, Gary, Ginger Danny, Shnapps and another three who haven’t given me their names yet……
And winter is coming on – so when you ask me why do I do this……I have to answer with how can I not? I’m a bit down today – it feels like pushing a snowball up a mountain…..but when I finally get to bed tonight after working tonight on my bar, I will know that I did the best I could today and that because of that, people who started the day with no hope can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel – they know we care and that we see them…… that’s pretty much the best any of us can ever do. Hope to see lots of you tonight – we have a great band on and I need my family today……. Love you all and somehow- We SHALL Overcome!
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