Posts Tagged ‘tramp’

One of the lovely things about the Midlands Women’s Convention last weekend was the opportunity to catch up with friends from around the region. I was able to have a good chat with another vicar’s wife from the Black Country who has been sharing with us the unusual experience of having Gone sleep under the garden hedge.

Mrs Very Benevolent and her husband live in another Sandwell town, just a few miles from here. She told me that Gone has been supplied with a sleeping bag by a local Food Bank and has camped out in their garden for the past few weeks. Another vicar nearby sometimes allows Gone to use his bathroom to spruce up. So he’s surviving. As usual.

Mrs VB is finding that Gone is alternately awful, abusive, threatening and foul and then repentant, sweet, thankful and charming. Same mix as ever. But the good news in all this is that the local police have decided that enough is enough and have demanded that the local housing office sort it out. Since Gone is without doubt the most vulnerable person I have ever met, I am thankful that at last some people in authority are taking responsibility.

My friend said that the first option will be to get him to Betel, although we all know that Gone struggles with trusting others, so the Betel community may not prove to be the best place. Whatever happens we are praying for a good solution for him. But at last there seem to be people in the ‘system’ watching out for Gone and there will be other options if Betel doesn’t work out. Keep on praying for him – we would love him to to feel secure in a home.

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We were not only greeted by a scraggy old flytipped sofa in our drive on our return home last week. As we unloaded the kids, the camping gear and wet swimming towels from the car, we also spotted a couple of items which made us think that we might soon again be seeing Gone, our on/off doorstep lodger.

The traditional bottle of Frosty Jack in our flowerbed

We were proved right the next morning, when he sat on our doorstep until lunchtime and tried to persuade the Vicar to ‘do just one small thing’ for him (take him out to McDonalds). After our previous experiences with Gone, we now say that we will take him to Betel to start rehabilition, but that is all we will do for him. Anything else seems only to sustain his destructive lifestyle and terrible cycle of living rough followed by living at Her Majesty’s pleasure. In the meantime, he’s back in our drive, sometimes singing loudly at 6am, sometimes aggressive, sometimes sad and wanting to talk. Pray that we are able to treat him with grace as his behaviour seems so intractable, and pray that his self-destruction stops.

Some information that Gone is too far gone to really make use of...

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Gone is still here every morning, not gone. He’s taken to arriving very early and singing under the Queen’s window. Polly is on the floor above and she heard him at 5am the other day. The Vicar has put a note on the doorbell to remind him not to ring until after we are up. He has now retrieved his NI number somehow (he wasn’t around to call the helpline with me). He still veers between sad and apologetic and agitated and abusive.

Not a single one in sight!

Not a single one in sight!

We went to dinner at the Bishop’s on Friday night. The Vicar lost his bet with me about being the only vicar there without a dog collar. There must have been about ten vicars, and the bishop and there wasn’t a collar or a clerical shirt in sight. I very much enjoyed meeting some other local vicar’s wives (including the Rector’s Wife) and hope to be able to share some of their stories here.

One chap there recommended Betel as a possible place for Gone to find more long term help. The Vicar has arranged for Gone to have a telephone interview with them this afternoon. To be honest, I’m not all that hopeful that Gone will want to go and give up the booze. But I’m praying he will.

Heartbreak has been here on and off this week. She’s a troubled teen who’s living in a hostel because relationships at home have broken down. She has a college interview this week, though, and seems to be getting her life back on track. She seemed to enjoy church on Sunday, but had never seen communion before.

This week we’ve heard tales of one chap’s stint in a young offender institution and had our woodpile chopped by a man who wants to retrieve his life after spending nearly half of it in jail and on heroin.

We’ve also had the Sunday lunch I’ve been imagining since we knew the Vicar was going to be a vicar. A dozen of us around the table out in the garden. A mix of ages and races. A massive roast chicken and three puddings. Much laughter and a few tears (from a rather over-emotional Engineer). Warm chat about Jesus and about our neighbourhood. And identification of more mysterious (to me) Vicarage garden plants. Perfect.

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Gone was on our doorstep at 6.30am today (Polly heard him, thankfully the Vicar and I were still asleep). He rang the doorbell on and off from 6.55am, but was gone by the time we were all downstairs from breakfast at around 8 o’clock. The Queen’s bedroom is just above the front door and she told me that he was singing loudly about chocolate. There were two bottles of Frosty Jack on the drive.

Yesterday we tried to help him get sorted out with the benefits system. He said that noone was able to help him.

If you dont know it, youre in a fix

If you don't know it, you're in a fix

Gone has forgotten his National Insurance number because he’s suffering from alcoholic dementia. He has no identification documents because he’s lost them all, so is struggling to prove his identity. Without an NI number he can’t claim benefits and therefore can’t even get a place in a homeless hostel. He’s frightened, ill and frustrated. And I don’t blame him.

The Vicar let Gone use the phone to speak to the Job Centre that he’s always dealt with, but because he can’t remember his NI number, they were unable to help. You need two forms of identification – you know, utility bills, passport – and he doesn’t have them.

Later, after Gone had left, I spoke to our local Job Centre Plus, the West Midlands Probation Service (Gone is less than a month out of prison but is without a probation officer), Walsall Probation office, Sandwell Adult Social Services, Aquarius (the Sandwell alcohol service), a Sally Army hostel, the Birmingham homelessness team, the local housing office and the local emergency homelessness team. Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic and helpful, but were stumped about how to help.

The emergency homeless team said they might be able to do a bit more with some more input from him, so next time he’s here in office hours I shall call them so I can mediate for him. In the meantime I’m going to call the central National Insurance office and the mental health services to see if there is any more advice available.

At the moment he seems to falling through a hole in a system designed to stop identity theft. He’s not trying to steal an identity. He’s just forgetting his own.

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I don’t know if it’s been five or six days now that Gone has been on our doorstep every morning. This morning I took the kids out to school through the back door, so we didn’t have to stop and have a long chat at that frantic time.

When I returned (also through the back), the Vicar was flustering in the kitchen. Gone had rung the doorbell four times, each time in a more aggressive way. The Vicar had gone out to chat to him and he asked for a packet of crisps. The Vicar offered him some bread and asked him what he’d like on top. He was fine with butter.

But when the Vicar brought out crisps, toast and butter Gone shouted that he’d expected beans on toast. He threw the bread into the flower border and swore and cursed. Then he apologised and prayed with the Vicar.

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The Vicar began again in the kitchen, this time having said he’d make cheese on toast, and that’s when I came home. I took over the sandwich production and took it to the door.

A minute later the bell rang. ‘There’s no cheese on this,’ Gone shouted as he threw his food in the flower bed and stormed off.

I shut the door. What to do?

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