|Ray Slater: A homeless camper who was 'moved on'|
In early November, The Argus apparently reported that Mr Slater was 'issued with a notice from a park ranger telling him he is breaching a bylaw and trespassing.'
Well, I don't know what happened to Ray. I pray he is okay, but it really is very cruel of the Council to issue such a notice to someone who is otherwise without shelter and is totally exposed to the elements. What are they saying? That he can sleep in the park but can't be protected by any form of waterproof material that you can peg into the ground? The Council are fully aware that as a Liverpudlian, Ray will have had no recourse to local housing or access to a hostel place because he will not have had a local connection. In other words, "You're not from round here, are you, son?"
Well, it just so happens that I met a man this evening near my flat. He shares his name with our Bishop and hails from near where he lives! I must congratulate His Lordship on a very impressive pastoral letter today, by the way. If I can get a hold of a copy I'll post it. Anyway, the homeless man's story, latterly, at least , is horrendous. I shall not go into too much detail but the proverbial has hit the fan in a big way for him recently. It is true to say that everyone who comes here with a heavy rucksack, sleeping bags and all their 'worldly possessions' has a story and usually not a very pleasant one.
Ironically, I found him at the other entrance to the block of flats where I live in Brighton. He'd just got off the train, so I was able to give him one of these 'rough sleepers guides' to Brighton, featured on Channel 4's 'The Secret Millionaire', which, if they knew, would doubtless irritate Brighton and Hove City Council no end, given that their expressed policy is to try and get people who come to Brighton on the next train out of Brighton as soon as they humanly can. It's called a 'resettlement programme'. It's a bit like an internal deportation scheme, really.
I might email Brad 'I'm actually a very rich man' Reback , the 'Secret Millionaire', and tell him that the £25,000 he gave to the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP) has, with the help of Providence, already helped one person who has arrived in Brighton with not a clue as to where to access help. There is plenty of it, most of it, though not all, supplied by Christian churches. I'm sure Brad would be very happy about that, but I doubt that the Council would be, otherwise, let's face it, they would have thought of the idea of a 'homeless guide' themselves!
Anyway, so what is my point? Ah yes, the point is that the man is now sleeping in a tent in a park in Brighton that has a park ranger. I didn't know in which direction to point him, as he had such a heavy bag on his back and the only night shelter in Brighton, St Patricks, is a big walk away and the chances of him getting in there without a 'local connection', are, especially at this time of year, highly unlikely. What is more, he was totally skint. I must confess that I didn't know that the Council were so hot on homeless people 'pitching up in their parks', otherwise I'd perhaps not have suggested it, but, really, if someone turns up in Brighton with a tent and a sleeping bag and no money, there are no firm options for them. There's a boy scout in me that wants to go out there and pitch up a tent in the park with him. I used to love camping. He is a nice guy. Say a prayer for him.