Rushing into the bank to grab bus fare from the cashpoint, I sniffed the smell of homelessness before I saw the young man sleeping in an inadequate sleeping bag on the floor of the bank’s foyer.
Taking a keener look at the other early morning patrons, I realised they were also people in varying degrees of dispossession and not fellow commuters as first thought.
As an early riser, I have now had several talks with this sub-culture who inhabit our streets and foyers before the rest of the world is awake. Their life stories are as varied and pathetic as those of us who live above the streets.
In the same vein when dining out with my daughter recently, she wanted to leave the remnants of her meal somewhere accessible for those who rely on such leavings. Unsurprisingly maybe, the restaurant owner regaled us with tales of caution, including that of the ‘beggar’ who was a street entertainer by day but really a millionaire, Rolls-Royce-driving civilian by night. Still, we found a discreet spot to leave her meal to be discovered by someone in need of its sustenance.
I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of life on the streets, but so far my experience is that of humanity just like me, separated by different decisions and the consequences of those decisions.
I do not ingratiate myself into the lives of these people, nor do I encourage ingratiation into mine. However a ‘good morning’ and the passing of a minute or two has not left me feeling threatened or diminished.
And I continue to muse about a society that gushes free food and clothes onto the rich and celebrated, yet would turn away those obviously in need of such ‘charity’.
writing for The Eastern Daily Press
Published in The EDP entitled ‘Contrasting Treatment of the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’