Most mornings I have a conversation with David. David sleeps outside Winchester station. He’s been there for ages, probably over a year. He’s usually good humoured, usually has a coffee bought by a commuter. David likes a latte with an extra shot.
I find David really irritating. Why? Because he knows what I do for a living and asks me about it each time I walk by. ‘How much have you raised so far to get homeless people off the street. Is it going well?’. ‘Not bad’, I say. ‘Excellent, well done Tim’, says David. We smile at the irony.
If I’ve got time, we have our second usual conversation. ‘So David. What’s the plan? You can’t stay here. Ready to move?’ And David gives me his usual response. ‘I’m not going back to Portsmouth…., I’m definitely not going into a hostel full of homeless people…., someone told me yesterday she’s got a job for me, so I’m just waiting for her to confirm…., I’m buying a caravan…., the outreach team never do anything’. It’s our usual conversation.
It will probably take some sort of crisis for David – he’ll get ill or arrested – to move into accommodation and perhaps then into a home. Usually, that’s what happens. Although he may have a change of heart.
For David, so far, there’s no new home, no magic bullet, no easy answer. Homelessness is hard for those affected by it and complicated for those who try to solve it.
I pray for a day when it will be unusual to be homeless.
Director, BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal with St Martin-in-the-Fields