I’m struggling today. It was a day of beauty in the way people reacted. But the ugly hand of bureaucracy soured everything.
T has been here a couple of days. He was rough sleeping. During the day he sat outside Holland and Barretts on Broad Street.
I have been buried in work and hadn’t been to town for a couple of days. I was alerted to his predicament this morning.
This afternoon I went to see him and to ask if I could help. We got on really well.
I found a really nice gentle man who had fallen out of normal life. He has a military background. He said he mourns the death of his parents. He told me his wife had recently died in horrendous circumstances. It was very clear to me that this good man had mental health issues.
In his short time in Ludlow, T had been treated well. A couple today organised a lunch for him today at Wesley’s. They tried to find him help. Others had contacted me. As we sat together this afternoon, passers-by stopped to inquire and offer help.
But the critical issue was getting Terry into shelter. He needs professional help to cope with the trauma in his mind.
I was optimistic initially. But it proved impossible to get an answer on Shropshire Council’s housing helpline. So I rang officers directly. I explained his case and arranged for him to get call from the homelessness duty officer.
I was not with Terry when that call arrived. I met up with him shortly afterwards. He told me that he was told to sort out his own problems. He also said that he was informed that Ludlow is an unsafe place to rough sleep at night.
Whatever the details of that call, T came away with two messages. As a rough sleeper with a mental health condition he would not get help in Shropshire. And Ludlow is dangerous at night.
We don’t know what the officer from Shropshire Council said. T’s version may not be accurate. But whatever was said clearly didn’t help. Homeless people are often challenging. I can’t see that their problems can be diagnosed or resolved in a phone call. It needs face-to-face contact.
Rebuffed by Shropshire Council today, T needed to find help elsewhere. I showed him some dry places to rough sleep in Ludlow but he said he felt he had to move on. I paid his train fare to Hereford. I am not sure I made the right decision but he said he didn’t feel safe here.
We can’t export homelessness to other counties. We can’t tell people who are mentally ill that they have to shape up. Homelessness can happen to any of us. We need to engage and help, not pass the problem on.
Shropshire Council does a lot of good work with homeless people but on this occasion I don’t think we got it right.