|My van in happier days...before I owned it...|
I must say I pretty much crapped myself when I found the letter from the Council on the front of the van and so took the van to the to the nearest repairs garage as a friend had said he would pay for it to get fixed.
The date of the letter warning me of a £1000 fine was January 5th, so I didn't know how much time I had to get it off Preston Park. George had said he was interested in having the van for free but has now baulked at the £704.00 price for getting it back up and running and roadworthy. I don't blame him. The van has caused me nothing but grief ever since I bought it and he now knows that it is something of a drain.
Now I find myself in a moral dilemma. I could scrap the vehicle and receive £300-500 for doing so, with a local scrappage firm. It would be sad to see it go, but it would be a weight off my mind. Having said that, what with the van having become 'emergency temporary housing' for Jason (not that I can get a penny of his housing benefit, unlike proper temporary accommodation) the moral dilemma deepens and takes on soul-weighing significance. So, that's another weight on my mind. The Council might not mind Jason dying from exposure in winter, but personally, I believe that 3 months of homelessness and sleeping in loading bays in Brighton is a pretty hard penance for some 'anti-social behaviour'.
Jason's sleeping on a loading bay in Brighton now with a sleeping bag. He's no access to day-centres or places to keep warm because he's barred from those streets in Brighton. The van wasn't warm, but it had a mattress in it, quilts and a lamp. If I paid for it to get fixed, then I guess he could live there temporarily on a public road, as if I parked it where it was, presumably I'd get fined £1000, unless I were challenge it in court. Personally, I don't fancy my chances against Brighton and Hove City Council in Court, especially if I lose. That would mean a criminal conviction for me for an act of charity.
So, my choice is clear. I either scrap the van and walk home with £300-500 in my pocket (tempting!) or invest £704 into the van with money that I don't have and allow Jason to shelter in it on a public highway in Brighton at night until the Summer, when I'll have to pay out something in the region of £900 for its insurance (possibly more as I and the van are another year older). I live on less than what people get for Jobseekers Allowance. Jason's 'key-worker' has told me that he will not be housed "for at least 3 months" because after years of working with Jason, the Council still believe that a man banned from 44 streets in Brighton and who commits a criminal offense every time he begs is now suddenly going to be coerced into model behaviour. Very rapidly my life is turning into an episode of Only Fools and Horses...and not in a good way. Wodney! You plonker!
If people are interested in helping to fix Jason's house so that he can sleep in it on a Brighton road at night, I'll be posting up exact costings of the repairs later this morning. Perhaps I should have left the blinking van where it was in Preston Park and contested the 'automatic conviction' that would have at some point arrived, but this isn't an activist's publicity stunt to raise awareness of the Council's treatment of campers and travellers.
This is not Dale Farm. This is a man in a van. White van man, if you please. I was sincerely just doing a favour for a friend in a tight spot and the Council have thrown an almighty spanner in the works, if you'll excuse the pun. I don't for a minute believe that I am the answer to Jason's homelessness problem, nor is the van a long term housing solution for Jason. It is just rather hard and cruel on him to pull the rug from under him in terms of shelter more or less immediately after he was evicted from New Steine Mews and I don't want to be on the side of the crucifiers. I want to be on the side of the crucified.
I wrote a new song recently and I think the answer to my moral conundrum in in there somewhere. If you want to help, you're more than welcome. I don't know. Perhaps if we all pray really hard, the Council will relent, but I don't think so. This time they're being really mean...and this time they really mean it. Pray for him. He's not the only man sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove, but its different when you know someone quite well. You know, he's outside 3 minutes away curled up in a sleeping bag on a hard, cold metal floor with only Lady Poverty as his companion. I'm tucked up nice and warm in bed with a cup of milky tea. After a while it gets to you.
When you've got the World it's never enough
And how could it ever be?
And when you think you've got it all sewn up
It will be unravel one day
And if you think that its just 'over and out'
There's nothing more to this World than what you've got
Oh if you think that's what this life's about
You are what you own and a secure bank account
Well if you think the World looks sweet and sound
Then turn it upside down
If you think this World's just turning round and round
In pences and pounds
If you think the victors are proud
If you think the rich wear the crowns
If you think the wealthy are first
Then, pray, where is the rich man?
And where is Lazarus?
Yes, if you think that this World was made for winners
Then why do the Saints
Only pray for sinners
How can you say that your house is forsaken?
I think that you'll find you're very much mistaken!
If you have put your heart into your possessions
Then when your Death comes as it surely will
Who'll welcome you into Heaven?
How can you say that this World is for successes?
When Lazarus is at your gate
Dogs licking his abscesses
How can you say that the World is for successes?
Did Our Blessed Lord walk this Earth
Taking permanent addresses?
The poor are rich, the rich they are poor
Yet there's none so rich as