Every morning I go out and take the rough sleepers here in Ashton a packed lunch - today was a fairly quiet day out there, we fed Danny, John, Ian, Andrew, Barry, Mark and Stephen - I have one left here for the other Mark who will probably call for that tonight.
Every day we make sure that the packed lunches have a bottle of water, juice, a couple of butties and a savoury (sausage roll or pie), breakfast cereal biscuits, chocolate, cake, crisps, a piece of fruit and biccies....I try to make sure there is some nutritional value in there as well as the sugar a lot of the boys crave.....
This is We Shall Overcome on the front-line.....and today was a particularly difficult one because Ian had suffered abuse from a passerby who had left him in tears telling him he was disgusting and should get a fucking job....the woman involved was backed up by a guy selling anti bullying wrist-bands - now there's real irony.....
On top of that John, who is an older homeless lad out there, was assaulted last night and claims that the man who did it zapped him with a tazer leaving him breathless and exhausted. He had apparently come to the pub last night, but saw it in darkness and didn't want to disturb me - bless him. I made sure that he reported that to the police today as whoever this lunatic was, he could have killed him.
This is the reality of life on our streets for people living in abject poverty. Some of these guys have mental and physical health problems, some have substance abuse issues.....our Impact team here in Ashton have tried to get these guys to engage over and over again, but some of them just don't trust anyone easily, some aren't ready to give up their addictions, some won't go because they have given up addictions and don't want to be around people in the hostels who are still rattling as they are scared they will relapse themselves.....none of them would maintain a tenancy, so we can't just get them a flat and leave them to it....
I don't have answers - I just try my best to keep them fed and offer what help I can and pray that one day, if we keep encouraging them, they will accept more structured help and will make a fresh start in life - some I know we will lose and they will die out there...
Whatever their issues and whatever the reasons they are out there - they are human beings and as I've got to know them a little more, they are so grateful for that daily bag of food - some of them do swapsies (John loves cake and swaps with Danny who prefers crisps....)
They have names, they have feelings, they are people - and to whoever those bullies were who reduced Ian to tears again today and who attacked John last night - I truly hope that karma kicks you right in the backside.
For now though - with your help and the money we get chucked in the bucket each week, we will keep on getting out there each day and letting them know that We Shall Overcome sees them and cares.
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