A few weeks ago I visited a wealthy market town and came across a man sitting forlornly in a passageway wearing dirty clothes. On the floor in front of him was a sign on which he’d scratched the words “Homeless” and an old tobacco tin with a few coppers in it.
I watched with interest as the police chatted to him, well-to-do ladies threw in a pound or two whilst smiling sympathetically having relinquished their guilt and a bohemian dressed girl from the organic, wholefood restaurant across the road gave him some food and a reassuring hug.
All this took place within about half an hour and he hadn’t hurled abuse at anyone so I decided it was my turn to pitch in: he said that a rehoming charity were trying to help him and he’d come to be near his son and wanted to visit him. I asked if he wanted me to help him find accommodation “Oh yes, please” he whispered looking pathetically grateful. So I suggested he took the bus to Eastbourne, gave him my business card and wrote on the back a contact name and address of the Salvation Army where he could get a shower, shave, new clothes and proper food (none of that vegetarian, organic stuff!), told him to call me and I’d help him sort out some safe accommodation. At that point something shifted and I can’t put my finger on it – so I asked what his barriers were to finding accommodation. “Well, all landlords want a month’s deposit up front and a month’s rent in advance and I can’t afford that”. This is usual and you can apply for these through some council and housing trust schemes, especially if you’ve been registered homeless or in rehab. “I understand,” I said “If you call or text me once you’ve got yourself cleaned up and fed, I’ll stand you the first month’s rent and your deposit so you can secure a room”. Shaking hands I then left him to sit with his tin and went to browse in the shop opposite. I’ll tell you what happened next, in just a minute.
Helping a Family Move On
Currently, I’m in the process of selling a house in the Midlands. It’s been tricky as I don’t live there so I offered the current LHA tenant an incentive of £1000 which includes his deposit of £595 to compensate for the disruption of viewings as well as to help him with moving costs and issued a Section 21 set to expire at the earliest date of 28th July. I did express that this date really would be the earliest as the sales process can take months and I would liaise with him to find a convenient date once the buyer had exchanged contracts.
Over the last week we’ve been communicating and he said he would like to leave yesterday (16th), take his children and stay with a friend for a few weeks to save for a new house. I offered him half rent until completion of sale so they didn’t have to suffer the disruption of sofa surfing and was sure we could tie up his move out date straight into a new rental property.
His response was No Thank You and could he have the rent refunded from the 16th to the 28th (next rent would have been due on 29th). I’m still currently trying to work out how to diplomatically say No whilst finding £1000 to deposit into his account.
A Nice Little Earner
What happened with the homeless man? He still hasn’t made contact and I’ve decided why would he? Sitting in that passageway, he gained far more than I could ever give him – I estimated he collected about £15 to £20 in that hour I saw (hiding the pound coins in his clothes before they’d even hit the bottom of the tin), excellent food, lots of well meaning smiles and hugs from pretty girls in revealing dresses who had to squat down in front of him to reach him. If he’d managed to get himself a mangy looking dog he could have increased his tax free takings by 100%.
Please Note: I’m not being flippant about homelessness but each case is different and yet the title is generic. Having housed dozens of homeless, single men over the years this story simply sums up my previous experiences of how I suspect it is easier to stay in the cycle of taking handouts than do something about it. Families with children, vulnerable and older adults should never be homeless but if you can sit on a cold pavement in a wind tunnel and still get up without suffering the effects of piles or seized joints, you can take on the trials and tribulations of life just like the rest of us.