No second night out? Maybe not two nights in a row but two nights this week I’ve seen the same homeless man sitting quietly in the town centre. Tonight it’s raining.
I am writing this blog piece at 6 pm in the Town Hall reception area, waiting to observe the Strong and Supportive Communities Scrutiny Committee which is held tonight. By the time this blog is published and you read it the Committee will have finished and all attending will have gone home to their warm homes and comfy beds and this homeless man will still be sitting on the streets of Peterborough hoping someone kind will spare some loose change so he can get a warm drink or something to eat.
I first met this man on Monday on my way to the Creating Opportunities and Tackling Inequalities Scrutiny Committee meeting where Poverty is a frequent topic of discussion. The man told me that he could not claim benefits as his documents had been lost and therefore has no money, no housing benefit and by the way he spoke, little or no hope. The sight of this man struck me. Thin, sad and shaking. But he wasn’t shaking from the cold, the cause appeared somewhat medical in my opinion, as if he was a Parkinson’s sufferer or the shakes were a possible residue effect of maybe the wrong ‘Lifestyle Choice’.
Lifestyle choice. What does that phrase mean to people? “Oh they chose to abuse drink or drugs!”. Maybe, just maybe due to circumstances the drink and drugs are abusing the person. No-one chooses to lead a life of misery, despair and hopelessness but events in their lives lead them that way through life. Their ‘satnavs’ have lost their signal, their maps have lost pages and they themselves are lost in a dark place with no-one lighting their way. The Government have ‘torches’ but not to give away, there is always a price to pay and that price is freedom. Not freedom in the literal sense but freedom of choice. Do this, sign here, attend that. No choice, no individuality, no heart. Just a conveyor belt of processes, a system, a number.
No matter how the people in power spout on about people’s lives improving, jobless numbers going down and families working their way out of poverty, the people not in the BIG seats know the real truth – Bigwigs lives improving through being paid to ‘train’ the jobless, jobless numbers going down due to figures being hidden because workfare and the like are classed as “In employment” and people working their way out of poverty just means the poverty threshold is being conveniently lowered to convince people the reforms are working.
The homeless man knows the real story… because he lives it.