Day 3: Boxing Day 2018
The days are blurring into one long procession now which in itself is very bad thing. I would love to say that I’ve only moved a handful of homeless guests and that I know them all by sight, but alas no.
Like a Lowry painting, there is a constant stream of people with their faces to the ground, their worldly possessions tucked under their arms, their belly’s are now full at least but why has it come to this?
How? more importantly.
We are at the West London Day Centre, one of the 6 centres where our guests can spend the day, can interact, drink, eat and join in and we are one of three minibuses readying to do our first run, (three minibuses equates to around forty people).
To place this into context, we are likely to do another similar run twice more on this shift, so that’s around 120 people moved to accommodation from this day centre alone. Move that on a little and the day centres will be taking in a total of 720 people at least today.
Add to this those being delivered back to the streets which I calculate would be another 60-70 and we can start to imagine how ridiculous my notion of just a handful of homeless people actually is.
The West London Day Centre is another academy school, all shiny glass and chrome, clean, smart and welcoming but its neighbour is anything but. Grenfell Tower looms overhead and I can’t help but think that this and the plight of those we are picking up are somehow linked.
There is a air of injustice floating around the complex and a sense of sadness seem to link the two. It seems somehow poignant that the two disasters have one common link at their core, housing.
There is a shrine for the victims of Grenfell Tower at its base, a list of names, photos and scribbled messages. Within the shadow of the tower, I get a sense of the size of the disaster. I am thankful and humbled by the messages but within minutes I am reminded of the living disasters that surround us daily. We have 17 of these disasters in our minibus. 17 unpleasant stories.
Across London all sorts of organisations are coming together under the Crisis banner. Universities, schools and churches and today our first delivery is to St Augustine’s Church where the pews will be made up as beds.
It is a warm enough night, no chill wind and no rain, which is just as well as the guests have to wait for an hour before the church is ready, we wait with them, chat to them and hopefully make them feel…meaningful I suppose.
Because of the London traffic, this single job takes us 3 1/2 hours to complete, we stay out and manage another run, and other 17 stories, another 17 humans who have the potential to be just a footnote in the lives of others.
At 21.30 we return to Bermondsey, have a quick bite to eat supplied by the kitchen staff, a wonderful chilli, and then it’s time for us to prepare the vehicles for the morning shift.
Three of us each do 4 runs to the local Shell garage with a Crisis fuel card and I can see the cashiers eyes light up with excitement.
It has been an emotional day, not unpleasant but equally not the most wonderful atmosphere seems to have surround me.
Maybe I’m missing someone, maybe I’m not, maybe I feel alone, maybe I feel for the homeless people we have transported today, and maybe it’s for those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower.
Whatever it is, I don’t like it.