Walking tonight from my friend’s to Finsbury Park tube, 5 people stopped and asked me for change. It’s a cold night in London. The wind is up, and cutting through whatever we might have to wear. I don’t envy anyone sleeping outside in this. Despite the climate, we have little portable shanties popping up after hours, and people taking possession of small sheltered areas of street as night closes in. They must be freezing anyway, despite their enforced creativity. There are little houses made of sheets and duvets and cardboard and whatever else. There’s a self-regulating community. “Lou asked me not to let anyone else sit on her bed.” “It’s cold.” “I’ll take your chocolate if you don’t get off.”
I rarely have change these days. Considering we voted so firmly against identity cards in the nineties, it’s odd how we have all subsequently made ourselves entirely trackable with contactless payment via phone and card. But this convenient trend for paying for everything online is probably playing havoc with the chances of homeless people getting shelter for cash if there’s a transaction involved for them to get it. We can all say “no” so much easier these days and be honest. “Sorry, got no cash.” And our worldweary prejudice and received opinion leads us to worry that if we do have cash and we give it to homeless people direct it just goes on nebulous criminal things like drugs. Having never been homeless I’m not sure. As ever I want to believe the best of people. But that’s a preoccupation that has burnt me a few times in the past so now I question my optimism too.
People can be ace though. I don’t know the exact figure, but we raised over 3,300 for Centre Point last month after Carol. Just via audience donation on the way out. I’m thrilled about that, because I wouldn’t want to have to sleep out in this crap, no matter what my history, and no matter what I was addicted to. Literally as I wrote that sentence I walked onto a reasonably empty tube and saw this dude.
Someone went up to him (the retreating guy in the red hat) as I got on the carriage. “Hey hey wakey wakey – are you ok?” … … (eventually something inaudible along the lines of : “Leave me alone, I’m fine.”)
Good shout that homeless dude, finding a warm sleep at a quiet time on the tube. There were only about 4 people in the carriage at Victoria which is the epicentre. For one fare he can go back and forth. District line to Richmond is a long run, you’ll get a reasonable warm nap if some clown doesn’t misread the situation and literally use the words “wakey wakey” when you’re halfway there. He should make a sign that says “I’m fine. Just sleeping.”
Tomorrow, in theory, I’ll have a working boiler. I’m paranoid that, even after all the spending, it’s going to be some deeper problem and I’ll just be buggered. But hell, I’ve got a roof over my head. And a nice one too.