Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Care in the city

Raymond, one of our regular street people was in church again the morning, and found asleep on the floor, unusual for him as normally he sits quietly at the back, and occasionally comes up and joins in the Eucharist for a while, and then leaves before the end. He is always quiet and well mannered, albeit that he emanates an air of forsaken sadness, and resignation that life has dealt him some pretty hard blows over the years.

Last Saturday he came into church and unusually I heard him shout aloud with annoyance at finding the toilet door locked. He was as grumpy as anyone deprived of sleep might be. He is one of the sixteen who sleep on the floor of the Tresillian House hostel, queuing for a space in one of the ten beds they have on offer to homeless people awaiting accommodation elsewhere. Progress can be very slow as people frequenting Tresillian House often have multiple problems (including addiction, substance abuse, and unpredictable behaviour), and are difficult to place. It's not an easy place to get a night's sleep, and it's hardly a secure place to rest, for fear of theft and sudden fights breaking out. The staff truly are a heroic bunch, and can't be everywhere all the time. So, a quiet vulnerable man in his sixtieth year has a really hard time there, but he puts up with it rather than sleep in a doorway. Poor men like him are always waiting for a break. Unlike many others, he usually carries a book to read, to while away the hours when he can't find anyone to talk to.

Anyway, someone saw fit to awaken him from a deep sleep (probably assisted by an early shot of vodka on an empty stomach), with the aim of turfing him out. He was quite disoriented and wobbly on his feet, though not behaving drunkenly, but rather as someone who is sick and tired. I chatted with him, and confirmed my impression that he was unwell, but having been woken, and feeling sick, he went outside, eventually collapsing outside the Market. An ambulance was called, and fortunately I was able to see him, and chat to the paramedics. I've been trying to persaude him (as several others have over this past month) to go and get his damaged knee fixed. Several times he's been taken to hospital and declined treatment because he fears being given an anaethetic, and won't be dissuaded from refusing treatment. Once in the ambulance, I urged him to accept that he was ill, and let the hospital give him some t.l.c. and a few days bed rest to recover from his nightly ordeal. It's no solution, but it's respite. He nodded in submission, and was taken off to the Heath.

After the Eucharist, I was glad to get to the area Deanery clergy Chapter meeting, as it seems I so often have diary conflicts, over midweek afternoon meetings. It's a good chance to catch up on the news, and for me to be able to share a little of what's been happening in and around the city centre. For once, however, I received some news about coming city centre activities from a couple of colleagues present. Several years ago a group of evangelical activites mootted the idea of having teams of Street Pastors out and about, ministering to consumers in the night time economy. It wasn't exactly clear at the time whether this was simply directed at ministering to the needs of the soul, or the body - as soup runs do. Now after a long period of quiet, it seems that a training programme is to start running next month, and it seems as if this will focus principally on pastoral listening, rather than material problem solving.

Sister Wendy's work over the past five years has shown how much need there is for listening people to be there in clubland for people with many life problems unaddressed in the normal run of daily existence. I wonder if it will be possible to interest its leadership in contributing to the soup run personnel discussion about empowering volunteers on the paracticalities of caring? We would benefit from as much input as possible to create a suitable Street Carer's scheme. One of these days we might even find an effective way to enable Raymond to move on.

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