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“Awful, just awful”

News St Martin – Talking Points

Sunday 27 January 2013

I remember Duncan (now long dead) who, for his kindness, remains a significant character from the life of the old Social Care Unit Day Centre. Though from the Midlands he qualified as a Londoner for the time he spent sleeping out on the Embankment where he acquired gangrene in his foot.

Rather than see the reality he showered with his boots on. By dint of persuasion the Day Centre staff engineered cleanliness and treatment; partially disabled he ‘soldiered on’. When asked for his comment on homelessness he had no ideology only, from the heart “Awful just awful”. On homelessness Sunday it is tempting to think in terms of programmes and statistics but the reality is also about individuals and suffering and ultimately building life and hope.

Maxim Gorky’s play ‘The Lower Depths’ makes a similar point, it was written during the Russian Winter of 1901. In Moscow the wealth and opulence of the relatively few is matched by the desperate poverty of the relatively many, the expectation of the well-to-do contrasts with the hopelessness of the have-nots. The final picnic scene is full of aristocratic ennui and indulgence while as the lights go out and as the ‘haves’ leave the stage the poor in rags crowd round in the half-light to finish the scraps left behind.

In Dick Sheppard’s vision (No half-light for him!) he sees folk coming to St. Martin’s with their very different needs and yet with only two things on their mind….Home and Love. Rooted in home and love we may indeed become that Glory of God which is ‘a human being fully alive’.

Duncan, although he died relatively young did find a home and in his own way demonstrated love and friendship away from the streets. The Pilgrimage and social care of St Martin’s contributed considerably to that ‘success’.

Roger Shaljean