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Showing posts from June, 2009

Stephen's Funeral

Funerals of homeless people are frequently harrowing. I have attended too many: around three a year for the last 29 years. There is the gnawing anxiety about the size of the congregation. Will there be enough people in attendance to give them a decent send off? My worst funeral was Ken Hobart’s. When I arrived at the crematorium it quickly became apparent that I would be the only one to pay him last respects. Ken had fought with the British army during the Second World War in the Far East. It was highly likely that some of his comrades were still alive but it seems that for years before his death he was long gone and forgotten.

Unlike many homeless people he had no inclination to talk about the war, at least not to me. He was an affable man who had drifted into rough sleeping via Salvation Army hostels and boarding houses in the 1960s and 1970s. At least at the time of his death in 1994 we had managed to find Ken a small bedsit where, with a degree of comfort, he had lived out hi…

Please, I beg of you, let me give you something for nothing

Most days we are rung at Thames Reach by somebody who wants to help the homeless; it is really rather gratifying. Media bods come with propositions intended to shed fresh light on ‘The Plight of the Homeless’. The Big Idea often involves them sleeping rough on the street to give a ‘down and dirty’ account of what it is like to be a rough sleeper. Quite often they are genuinely unaware that a proposal of this type is put to us at least once a month. Sometimes the call is from a designer with a new invention to pilot, such as a collapsible tent for rough sleepers or a particularly warm body bag to keep them snug during those winter nights. As the vast majority of rough sleepers aspire to a bricks and mortar solution rather than a life under canvas or in a sleeping bag, we tend to give them short shrift. Some approaches are from, to be frank, cranks.
On this particular morning I seem to have been reached by a Premier League crank. The conversation went as follows:

‘Mr Swain, my name is …