No Room at The Inn

BY MANDY BALDWIN

The upright and righteous of Stoke-on-Trent have hit on a plan to rid their streets of the non-people who offend those scurrying to buy lush food and glittery objects to celebrate the birth of a baby in a stable.

Seventeen people, you see, are ruining the town for everyone by existing and erecting small pop-up tents as shelter against the harshest winter in eighty years. This must be stopped. Why on earth – huff the Folk of Stoke – can’t they just do the decent thing and die, so we don’t have to look at them?

And do they dare suppose that, as humans, their lives are of intrinsic value? No, no – should they not possess a tent, and still want some protection against those who have a fixed address and are therefore more respectable than they, who think they are fair game to be urinated on, set light to, spat on, stabbed and kicked, then they can stay out of public lavatories, too.

How does one become homeless? Well, it’s frighteningly simple. Basically, you lack the funds to buy yourself out of a range of human crises. It’s as easy as that. Once you are in that position, there is little hope of getting out of it, barring miracles. Think it could never happen to you? Wrong. We all of us survive due only to a series of lucky chances, and the kindness of others – very little is down to our own probity or life-skills.

There is no help for most people under those circumstances – no housing, no shelter, no benefits – neither do people want to employ homeless people.  Homeless people look scruffy, disreputable, have no address to send application forms to. As with Stoke Council, most people want the homeless to disappear. Already non-people, regarded by too many with slightly less compassion than vermin, the homeless would do better, as Ebenezer Scrooge recommended, to die and decrease the surplus population.

What kind of people object to seeing the homeless? Well, oddly enough, they tend to be rather Left Wing.  These are people who loudly denounce the Conservatives for their welfare and housing cuts, while simultaneously declaring that, in this day and age, there is housing and money available on demand. Perhaps reflecting on their enjoyment of glamping in Cornwall, they see homelessness as a life-style choice. Or perhaps it’s just that they suffer from SCS (Selective Compassion Syndrome) because these same people can often be found holding up banners welcoming so-called refugees, even as they demand in effect to sentence British homeless people to death.

These people don’t like anger – except their own, against those who disagree with them – so they certainly don’t like it to be pointed out that virtually the only way a homeless person can be guaranteed help is if they arrived hidden in the back of a truck.

Talking of dying, that’s another thing many don’t realise happens to British homeless people, even as they weep copious tears for places such as the Calais Jungle.  Maybe they think pale skin is some protection:  they are very wrong.

We do die.  If not from attacks, accidents, or medical conditions left untreated, the cold gets people.  Humans aren’t designed to survive temperatures below freezing, especially in inadequate clothes grown threadbare and damp, especially with bodies which have been poorly nourished for months. Maybe that’s why the honest, upright people of Stoke Council pay such particular attention to public lavatories: I knew of a woman who froze to death in one.

And if you were thinking of walking out of town and putting your tent in a field, then forget it: a year ago, I remember a group of homeless people being over-run by men with powerful torches, dogs, and bulldozers at 3am, who ploughed all their pitiful belongings into the frozen earth. Local people congratulated the farmer, who hadn’t used that land in years.  Homeless people, eh?  That’ll learn ‘em.

But anyway, Stoke Council have it all covered: they are  – and this will deal with the roots of the problem, for sure – planning to slap a £1000 fine on anyone rashly caught attempting to save their life by erecting a little tent at night, in which to doze fitfully before the misery of the next day begins.

How will destitute people pay such a fine?  Well, considering Stoke Council have apparently fallen into a veritable abyss of inhumanity, maybe someone there will come up with an ingenious plan for the homeless to be sold into slavery, to work off the fine in hard labour.

Congratulations, Stoke Council, I bet you sleep the sleep of the just.

But I will say this to any Christmas shoppers breathing a sigh of relief because you won’t have to pass a tiny tent while scurrying on your way: if you feel contempt rather than grief at the sight of human suffering, then maybe instead of melting credit cards or fretting about decorations, you should go somewhere to pray to whatever powers you believe in, to ensure you are never found among those you despise – and count your blessings, instead of the gifts under the tree.

When this article goes out, for the first time in over fourteen months, I will be sleeping under a solid roof, safe at last. Whatever else the future may hold, I won’t die of cold this winter.

I have done nothing special to deserve this – just been lucky, in that some wonderful people happened to like my writing, which they only saw because some other wonderful people happened to publish it, and meanwhile, even more wonderful people are contributing to a fund to eventually provide me with permanent shelter.

So this Christmas, I will have a tree, and lights in a window, and a hot meal instead of burgers burned on a fire of sticks in an icy field. I am as tearfully excited as a five year old.

At my lowest ebb I have been blessed: with friendship and kindness and love beyond my understanding. Most are not: for most the fall off the edge of the world is permanent, but it doesn’t make them worth less than me – or you.

Remember that, this Christmas and always.

I shall.

 

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