Today’s demonstration was hard but full of solidarity. It has reminded me of how many people out in the community do actually care.
Today we spoke to a man that we had met last week. He had been made homeless two days before we saw him and had been temporarily housed in the local Travel Lodge. He hadn’t ate because he had no food, and he didn’t know where to go for help. He approached us and the look on his face was one of total desperation.
The first thing that I had to do was to phone the ESA department (Employment Support Allowance). He had been promised a payment, and he showed me the letter to evidence this. We waited 20 minutes for the call to be put through, listening to endless recitles of Vivaldis The Four Seasons. This is by no means unusual. The reason why he couldn’t use his phone is because he doesn’t have credit and it would cost too much. He had no money to use a phone box, and neither would the Jobcentre let him use their phones. Remember they took them all out a few years ago.
Eventually we got through and the DWP official seemed to be on a go slow. She made him repeat himself twice before even taking his personal details. If she had done so she would have seen the reason for the delay of his payment. The gentleman had sent a sick note, but they had lost it so he now has to send another one in the hope of getting a payment. This man has been without any money for four weeks now, and has been relying on our food parcels to keep him going.
They should have informed him that he needed a new medical certificate in the letter that he received. Instead they had given him false hope of payment. It was their duty to inform him, but never rely on the DWP to actually help claimants.
Then came the icing on the cake. The local housing association has temporarily housed him in the local travel lodge. He can’t cook in there except anything that he can make with a kettle. His housing officer telephoned him and said that she wanted to see him, so he went straight to their office which is nearby. In this meeting they demanded his birth certificate and proof of income. Fair enough you might say, but he was born in Manchester, he had no money to get there and no money to buy a copy of his birth certificate. If he didn’t get them for tomorrow they said, they would make him homeless tomorrow. This man is vulnerable with health problems and he wouldn’t last two minutes on the street. The housing associations attitude was awful, and indeed it is to most people. I think that they either forget that they are dealing with extremely vulnerable people, or have just become immune to the job.
Myself and the team were worried, so we clubbed together to get him enough money to get his birth certificate and to pay for his transport. But here’s a scary thought. What if he had been born hundreds of miles away in a place like Scotland? How on earth would he have been able to complete this task? It would have been impossible. But the housing association didn’t volunteer to pay, knowing that he hasn’t got an income and neither did they care.
This did make me a tad angry, but not destructive angry more a feeling of complete frustration. It would have really upset myself and the team if we weren’t able to help him, knowing that he would have become just another statistic on the streets, and maybe a death certificate in the winter months.
A comrade also dropped some hygiene products off for him, because he has nothing and he wanted to get clean. It’s not a lot to ask is it?
We dealt with lots of issues yesterday, but I wanted to highlight this one. This gentleman became ill, wasn’t receiving the support that he needed and he lost his home as a result through a series of unexpected events. He’s intelligent, articulate and used to have a really good job. His life completely changed within a few months and now he is in this situation.
It can happen to anyone. Everyone is one payslip away from this, never mind the three payslips. Most people that I know live from week to week or month to month. This is why I don’t judge anyone, and I encourage my readers not to either. But we will not abandon him, he is now a part of our team and we stand in solidarity with him.
We also handed out six food parcels, a few to victims of universal credit, and another to a gentleman that relies on our food parcels to keep going. He’s forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday, and I’m sure that the reason what they are doing this is because his English is poor and he can’t argue with them. We also gave suitable food to the gentleman that we helped.
Please donate if you can to support this campaign. It’s a full time job and doesn’t just end with the Thursday demo and the blog. Many thanks.
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