Wednesday, 26 October 2011

No Abiding City

Brighton's homeless have, according to the BBC, doubled this year. Meanwhile, I received a text telling me that, in Oxford, homeless are left outside in the cold because all the shelters are full. I am quite certain that there is an unusually large queue for this time of year at the soup run on the seafront, due to what has been described as a "purge" from London, around venues for the Olympics and that some have made their way to the 'city by the sea'.

The BBC link above actually has some quite shocking quotes from homeless people who tell of their having been forcefully pushed out of areas of London. The South East is therefore receiving some more homeless than is apparently usual. China did the same, India did the same, so who can blame that other 'third world' nation, the UK, from doing the same. After all, they're not good for tourism and the image of the UK.

It has been a strange two days or so. On my way to going to visit George and Diane yesterday I came across a couple, Neil and Margaret, outside the Jobcentre in Brighton, having recognised Jim, a former successful jockey, now hanging out in Brighton hoping to be found by the Rough Sleepers Team in Brighton. He turned up at the door of the Church on Friday during Catechism asking for a sleeping bag. Fr Ray gave him his jacket and I gave him a duvet from the garage of the Church. His story is rather confusing, I have to admit, but however he got here, he is in Brighton and is now rough sleeping.

Despite the fact that the interview above is rather 'in your face' I thought it worthwhile posting it up. It isn't 'politically correct', it isn't necessarily 'tasteful' and it isn't that 'pleasant', but nevertheless, these are the real opinions of real people living life on the edge in Brighton and for that reason they are worth hearing. I don't personally agree that 'foreigners' are taking a great deal of housing, certainly not in Brighton, Brighton being not half as cosmopolitan a city as, say, London, but nevertheless, that is their perception. Given that the man, Neil, has fought for this country and is left destitute after his stint in Northern Ireland, I certainly believe his words are worth listening to. I found it astonishing that the couple were looking for work at the Jobcentre even though they are homeless, but, even so, they are cut off from the benefits system, Neil having missed his letter telling him he has a medical assessment, when he was in Manchester, because they sent the letter to the wrong address. If you don't turn up for your medical assessment, in this country, then you are cut off from the benefits system. They've been in Brighton a week or two and sleep in a car park and it is getting colder by the day.

Their words are a challenge to us all. Perhaps there are issues with them, there is likely to be, but I believe that the Gospel still speaks through them. They are right to say that unless they have been here 6 months sleeping rough then they will not be considered to have a local connection and the Council will not house them until they have seen winter through.

I recently heard that a man of just 39, a rough sleeper called Steph Kelly died in Brighton on the streets. He had been taking a great deal of drugs over time, upon his release from prison. At the meal at the evangelical Church for the homeless on Monday they gave him a minutes silence. Men and women cried as they remembered the friend that they lost to drugs, alcohol and a cocktail of prescription drugs. People had tried to warn him to stop but he couldn't, wouldn't or didn't think he or the life he was living was worth it. You might perhaps think that street homeless and hostel homeless would become immune to hearing of the deaths of their brothers and sisters, but despite the harshness of their lives, often ravaged by alcohol and drug addiction, they intensely love their brothers and sisters. I know someone who says he has 20 friends who died in the last two years. He worries that he is next, but he 'doesn't care' either whether it is him. He says he cares when others die, but he doesn't care if he dies. There is a certain nihilism there, a devil may care attitude towards himself and yet when it comes to others, it is something else entirely.

Meanwhile, this evening, I met a lady who had a most horrendous story to tell. She is a mental health nurse who now feels she cannot work in the United Kingdom because the NHS is so appalling. She complained of the way in which the NHS deals with mental health patients and especially the 'care in the community' system. She said that in America, things are markedly better, whereas here, we never get to the root of the problem for mental health patients and just throw medication at them and then let them go. However, tonight she was particular angry.

Why? Well, her story, or rather the story of her niece, who she was comforting tonight, is not pleasant. The story of her niece is, in fact, perhaps the most harrowing story I have heard for a long time. Recently, her niece, who I met, and her boyfriend and son, befriended someone in their area. They didn't know he had mental health issues. One night, he called at her flat, where she lives with her boyfriend and son and was troubled, so they invited him in for a cup of tea. The man proceeded to go to the kitchen and got knives out of the drawer and started cutting himself up in front of them. In fact, he started cutting himself up so much that he cut a vast array of his arteries all over his body. The boyfriend tried to stop him but he just kept grabbing more knives. The mother had to get the son and literally throw him out of the house while getting the neighbours to call the emergency services. By the end, the man was dead, only to be brought back to life later by the emergency services. The niece now lives in a house which is covered in the man's blood. Totally covered in blood.

They have tried repainting the walls but the blood is still coming through. The man thought he was possessed and was trying to cut 'the demon' out from himself. He was rushed to hospital but the couple and the son were left in a house literally covered in blood. Understandably, they want to move but the Council are not yet doing anything to move them. The house should really be abandoned by now, in my opinion, and they are still in shock. But the most harrowing aspect of the story is that even though the man was at death's door, having cut himself to pieces, literally with parts of his internal organs hanging out, he is now out of hospital and is calling at the door of the couple and he won't stop going round. Why has the man not been sectioned? Why is he not in a secure hospital? Is he not a 'danger to himself and others'? Well, this is 'care in the community'.

Apparently, it was Margaret Thatcher who closed down all the mental asylums of Britain and just let the society that she said did not really exist deal with psychopathic mental patients. Say a prayer, or a Rosary, for the lady (you can pray for the 'iron lady' as well, of course), her niece and her family as despite the terrible things that have happened at the flat, the local authority seems to be washing their hands of the situation, while they are still trying to wash the blood off the walls and repaint them despite the fact that blood is still coming through. I don't know why people who are troubled come to Brighton but they do. Some people are desperate to get out. The lady I was speaking to about it is Catholic but she has lost her faith over the years, so say a prayer for her too and for the protection of her relatives.

The niece, who still lives in the same house, still coping with the trauma of what happened went on her way back to the same house where the same guy is still calling round is on the edge of a breakdown. Her boyfriend is, following what he saw, having a nervous breakdown. I told her that the Catholic Church has exorcists but that it is likely that 99% of cases are literally to do with 'mental health'. She replied that if you had seen this guy cutting himself open and opening up his chest in front of you, his eyes and face changing so much that that person you thought you had met was no longer there, you'd know that demonic possession is totally real.

Oh and, last, but by no means least, pray for the man who is (at best) seriously mentally ill, who is harrasing the family and that the authorities will take action that will save his life and bring peace to their lives. Welcome to Brighton and, remember, its nothing like what the Council and tourist board say it is. You could have the best 'global economy' run by a world bank in the World, even one run along the lines of the Church's social teaching, but, somehow, I don't think it would save the West. Only Our Blessed Lord can save this country.

This is Laurence England reporting to you live from Brighton and, while the view here is sometimes pretty, there is no doubt in my mind that this country is going to the wall, big time and how! If you live in the countryside, well, good for you! My advice, for the time being, is stay there! And it isn't even Halloween yet...Ave Maria, gratia plena...Anyway, to end, let's end with something light. As you'll hear from our video, I've got nothing on John Squire, but George, even though he isn't famous, is still a better singer than Ian Brown. Why not say a prayer for Ian and his ladywife too who is, apparently, a Mexican lady.


A Reluctant Sinner said...

It does seem fair to say that the London boroughs have been purging their homeless population in time for the Olympic Games. It also seems that there have been cases of so-called "hot-washing", where rough-sleepers in London are covered in water (from pressure jets) in order to make it practically impossible for them to sleep at night - thus making them want to leave central London.

Having said that, though, the economic troubles currently facing the UK seems to be causing a surge in homelessness in London. So, whilst local government seems to be purging the homeless on the one hand, the national government is creating more homeless people on the other! And, of course, funding for homeless projects, as well as for organisations looking after the mentally ill and those addicted to drink and / or drugs, is being drastically cut! All of this whilst banks and utility providers announce record profits, and extremely wealthy tax-dodgers continue to press for more tax cuts and better infrastructure for their industries.

The economy, as Pope Benedict XVI recently stressed, is made for man, not man for the economy!

Left-footer said...

I would guess that "hot washing" amounts to assault and battery, and is therefore illegal, though I am no lawyer.

As Wendell Berry said, "Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."

I would say that the authorities are the vermin here.

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Certainly we've noticed an increase over the past few weeks at the Salvation Army Homeless Drop-in at The Level - 90 meals today and lots of new faces.

Physiocrat said...

A came across a former homeless person in a grocery shop last night, carrying a handful of cans of booze, whilst his partner was waiting in a taxi outside.

He handed over as much for the drink as I would expect to spend on food for three days.

I am not sure sympathy would not be better directed at those who really are in no position to influence their circumstances.

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