Postbox no longer
Fireplace with brick mantle-piece
Hearth for street homeless?
n.b. The housing crisis continues to grow across England. On my recent visit to Manchester, the night, (after an unusually beautifully warm Spring-like February day under an azure sky), threatened to be very cold in the city; temperatures in the concrete doorways were to fall to freezing point.
It was impossible to walk many metres without being approached for money, or seeing evidence of street homeless. By 23:00 hrs there were few other people around, except for late-night drinkers making their way to find late buses, trams or trains home. Walking briskly toward my hotel, a little lost under the disorienting amber street lights, I was approached directly by a tall man with his terrier dog on a rope leash. He was asking for a few pence towards a bed for the night.
I lost; he desperate. I kept walking, feeling uncomfortable at the pace of his approach and his demanding manner. We exchanged words as I strode on. I told him that I was not stopping as I was lost in my own way, adding the clichéd, “No. sorry mate.”
I was aware he was still walking after me, but his imprecations fell on deaf ears. When he realised I wasn’t stopping he turned away.
Yes, I felt bad and I am also beginning to feel hopeless about what I am seeing in the towns and cities I visit. Chichester, Lincoln, Peterborough, Norwich, Bognor Regis, Portsmouth, Brighton, Birmingham, Walsall, London and Manchester. I cannot help everyone I see; cannot handover money to everyone I am approached by or pass who begs.
This experience is becoming numbingly common, with increasing numbers of women amongst those begging. I have been asked for money so many times in so many places, by so many people.
Not everyone living on the streets can be a Big Issue seller and how many copies can one person read?
Morning tells another story. Office and shop doorways, shopping arcades and stations are visited by street wardens, private security guards, store managers, police officers, staff from local government agencies and charities, trying to wake those bedded down in these more sheltered places.
At Manchester Piccadilly station men and women in cheap-uniform share information via short-wave radio handsets about who and where those who sleep rough are laid out. The aim is to wake, advise and encourage the sleepers to go and find somewhere else.
Luckily, with the rise of Amazon and online shopping, there are many abandoned shops across every town, so there is empty space where no one crosses the threshold anymore, allowing people to establish a more settled temporary base. And of course, the Internet and associated email facilities are why postboxes are not needed as often.
As we approach Brexit deadline day many people are wondering whether the Conservative government of Mrs May and her DUP allies actually care about the people who, when they speak, are begging for a few pennies.
And this from the Evening Standard, London on 5th March, 2019 in Dan Jones’ column: