Yesterday, a homeless man told me how he’d ended up living on the streets. His name is Dwane and, until three weeks ago, he was employed at a guest house where he had a roof over his head, three meals a day and was able to watch TV during his leisure time.
At the beginning of January, his employer advised Dwane and two other employees that she no longer had work for them and that they had to leave her premises immediately. Dwayne packed up his belongings and started his time on the streets.
At first he slept on the floor of a public toilet, using the packet containing all of his possessions as a pillow, until he was robbed by three men. He was left with the clothes on his back and slept under a bridge for a few nights until the police told him he had to move on. From then on, he just slept wherever he could.
He went to all of the places he knew of in our city that could accommodate the homeless and found that they only cared for the elderly, vulnerable women and children – there is a place for male alcoholics and drug addicts but he is neither so they couldn’t take him in.
He walked from business to business, asking for work but, as he had no facilities to wash himself or his clothes, he just got dirtier and dirtier which made him a very unlikely proposition for employment.
His parents and sister were killed in a car accident many years ago so he has no family in the city to turn to. He does have an elderly aunt some distance away and, as a last resort, he managed to borrow a phone to phone her and she offered to take him in for two months while he tries to get back on his feet.
He was starving, so our receptionist gave him the sandwich she had bought to the office for lunch and I gave him the money he needed for transport to get to his aunt.
His tears of gratitude were real and he thanked us for helping him. We wished him well and he went on his way.
Since hearing his story, I’ve been asking myself what I would have done to help Dwane if his aunt hadn’t offered him that lifeline ……