Wednesday 21 August 2013

England: How Lewisham Single Homeless Intervention Prevention humiliated me

Dead with connections
It was a shortcut, leading to a park and then a station unto the road I needed to walk up a hill to the place I had stayed until today.
On both sides of the path that seemed to split an old graveyard into two were tombstones of the long dead and buried, remembered by the names and the dates of birth and of death, sometimes with the years numbered, maybe with other family or information of relationships to those who put them there.
A father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, there were connections, with the place, with people and with a time, that is why they were there.
No protection for the living
Even then gravestones followed a trend, some were shaped in stone like Egyptian sarcophagi, maybe in celebration of the eternity of burial exemplified by the Pharaoh’s tombs of old, protected with curses and scripts that have no significance to the grave tampering archaeologists who brought us the remains of Tutankhamun and that cohort.
No, there is no protection for the dead as there seems to be no protection for the living if they do not tick the boxes of eligibility even if the person is in dire need representing an exception to the rule.
My grave circumstances were brought into stark relief when I strode down to the Lewisham Housing Services and there was nothing in my story, voice or plea that could made me a priority in their eyes, I had no connections with Lewisham apart from 5 weeks that I have lived here, but then I have no particular connections with anywhere else in the UK, I am as good as a just returned Englishman.
I’m no prodigal son
Maybe the lady was exasperated with the audacity I had to walk into any council office, talk less of the one she sat in to ask for help, I could have another set of phone numbers to add to the 5 I had called for advice and help – I was fast becoming a homeless switchboard.
Then I was asked why I had not made plans for my resettlement back in the UK before leaving the Netherlands last August, it is like asking the prodigal son in the Bible why he had not made plans for settling back at home when he literally had no claim to anything but the mercy and kindness of the people he left behind, especially his father.
The questions plumbed the depths of absurdity, there was no room for embarrassment but to state the facts and the fact is an Englishman who has generally lived an independent life and has now only resorted to state help in an emergency and desperate situation has no chance on God’s good earth of getting help today – there is no face of humanity or compassion to register in sympathy or empathy, rather you are met with obstinate indifference, apathy and checkboxes.
Scolded in my adversity
My humiliation was completed like the exhumation of the graves of yore when after I asked to make phone calls in a quiet corner of the empty waiting room, with the unfortunate result of not getting through a legal advice service but then called the hospital for help, I was curtly asked to leave, in the eyes of the doorman, I had become a vagrant, a nuisance and an inconvenience.
My voice trembled as I stepped out apologising profusely for taking up their time. I will come through this with my head held up high and for those who staff the Single Homeless Intervention Prevention office in Lewisham – I am single and homeless but you did little to intervene or prevent the predicament I was facing – we will meet again, God willing, I will be in better circumstances to say I saw the next day, in spite of and despite you.

Thank you.

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