CARDBOARD CITY

Raising awareness about young homeless people in and around London

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The Dispatch Online reported this week that a homeless man was spotted delivering post for the day in one of East London’s leafy suburbs – claiming he was standing in for the regular postman who allegedly paid him to do his job.

The unofficial deliveries were stopped when a Bunkers Hill resident asked him why he was delivering mail. The man replied that he had been “sub-contracted” by a South African Post Office postman who, he said, had paid him R10 to do the job.

Lionel Scott yesterday explained how he caught the man with two bags full of post, meant for residents of Bunkers Hill, on Tuesday afternoon. Scott confiscated the bags.

He said his wife called him after seeing the man at Schekter Place – “sitting outside looking through the post”.

Scott continued: “I drove from home and found the guy on his way into a nearby bush. I asked him if he worked for the Post Office and he said no; he then told me the postman gave him R10 to deliver the post.

“When I asked him why he was going into the bush, he said he was going to deliver it later … I took the two bags from him; he didn’t resist.”

Scott pointed out the unidentified man to the Daily Dispatch team at Eastern Beach.

Attempts to talk to the topless young man failed. He refused to speak to the Dispatch and walked away.

But postman Andile Ndzwana, who delivers mail in the Bunkers Hill area, denied paying the man R10 to do the job – instead, he claimed that the bags had been stolen from him.

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Notes From Abroad: A London Diary By Thom Beckwith

 
 
Saturday night, two a.m., lost and alone in Dublin. Two of my friends are drinking in Temple Bar, where the music is loud and cellphones buzz in vain. I discover too late that my own cell isn’t working, thanks to an automated message that tells me, in a glacial news anchor’s voice, that I seem to have left the UK. Temperatures hover around forty or fifty degrees, while the wind, fresh off the Irish Sea, rushes at thirty mph or faster. Vacant taxis stream down the muddy street. I flag one down, gloved hands waving, and tell the driver what little knowledge I have: I’m spending the night with two friends at the University College Dublin; their phones and mine aren’t working; I’m not exactly sure what dorm I’m staying at, but I’m sure I can find my way. Can you take me?“That college is pretty big, you know,” he says, a warning at which I nod. He takes me out of the city.Fast-forward half an hour. The wind has sped up to forty, and the cold, already unforgiving thanks to the Irish fog, is starting to numb my ears. I start across the grass from the end of an open field. By now, of course, I can see what straits I’m in�”I didn’t know where to go but I said I would find my way. How? The dorms line up in the distance as rows of identical tenements, all of them squat and faceless. No one else is around. I ask what else I could do, given the present conditions, and answer the question glibly. Homelessness isn’t so bad.Twenty minutes later I spot another taxi, a van with a flickering headlight, pulling up to the entrance. Its driver spots me and waves. Ready to drop my bravura, ready to finally admit that I don’t know my ass from my elbow, I lean forward into his window and tell him the story thus far. His face is scored with crags; they rearrange as he laughs. In a quote I am not making up, he tells me:

“Ah, laddie, you’ve had a bad night and you don’t know where you are, that’s fine, Gardner Street’s the place, that’s where the students put up, you know, and you’ve got good manners, sound like a kind-hearted boy, so no fare, no fare. My treat.”

“Really?”

“Last ride of the night anyway. Come on, get in.”

As we’re heading for Dublin, he asks about college finances. Isn’t it hard in the States, where most of your schools are private? Yes, I say, but students have ways to pay. I explain financial aid and various kinds of scholarships. He asks about the Army; isn’t that pretty popular? Yes, I say, I guess it is. He remembers life in the fifties.

“When I was in college they had a system that sent you to school with full pay, but then you went into the Army for nine years. A lot of people did that.”

This leaves me speechless.

He drops me off at the Hostel Heaven of Dublin: five hostels in a row on both sides of the street, all of them cheap and open. The first one I enter is full up for the night. At the desk a short man with a glass of whiskey in his hand informs me of this fact as follows: “We’re all out of spots, you know, but head down there and the Hogshead, I’m sure, they’ll have a room for the night. I’d send you down to the Glen but they’re a little”�”he shakes his hand�”“you know. Best of luck.”

I find a room at the Hogshead. Eight hours later, groggy and getting hungry, I make my way to an Internet café, where for one Euro I get an hour of service. My friends have sent me an e-mail: they’re at UCD. Can I meet them at a dorm about two hundred feet from the field I crossed last night? I head out, spot a cab at a train station, and ask for a ride from the third taxi driver I’ve met in the past twelve hours. He pulls out of the train station and heads out onto the highway. We start a conversation.

“Must be American. Picked that up in an instant.”

“Yup, yup.”

“Always wanted to go but never did. I can’t get out of this city.”

“Well,” I answer, laughing, “that’s not so bad.” I look out the window at overcast skies and dark green grass, miles of brick homes with tiny clay chimneys. For the first time in a countless number of days, I’ve had a good night’s sleep�”something about the sheets, or the mattress, or the maid who woke me up, urging me to take my time. My driver brings me back.

“My sister’s in California right now. She likes it. Good girl, smart. Up for an Oscar next week.”

“What?”

“Yeah, with her team. She worked on the script for ‘Atonement.’”

Charity Begins At Homelessness

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A new employment academy is to be set up in south London dedicated to helping hundreds of homeless people find employment.

The Thames Reach charity, which works with rough sleepers across the capital, will involve former homeless people in building the centre.

Thames Reach hopes the new Academy will help to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in the capital by helping homeless people develop new skills, increase their self-confidence and find work, in turn enabling them to settle into their new homes – reducing abandonments, evictions and returns to street
homelessness.

The Academy will provide a range of services for men and women living in homeless hostels and supported housing projects, and to people living in the local community who need help to increase their skills and find a job. It is estimated that 150 people will be making use of the facilities every day.

The project is possible as a result of a £4 million capital grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government via the Places of Change Programme. It will be situated in either the London borough of Lambeth or the London Borough of Southwark.

Jeremy Swain, Thames Reach Chief Executive, said: “The Employment Academy will provide a range of innovative services to help homeless and vulnerable people get back into work, including a range of social businesses, classroom space, and a restaurant where the workforce will predominantly be made up of homeless people.

“The Employment Academy represents a shared commitment to helping people escape homelessness by developing the skills, confidence and motivation to get work and shake off for good the debilitating shackles of long-term worklessness.”

Drug Money

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Rebecca Williams

Friday’s Inside Out on the BBC took a disturbing look at homelessness in London.

ThamesReach, a charity that help homeless and vulnerable people find homes and build a better life for themselves, gave simple advice: not to give money to homeless beggars on the street simply because it goes straight to the drug dealers.

According to a survey carried out by ThamesReach 80 per cent of homeless people are feeding a drug habit and their average life expectancy is 31 years of age.

ThamesReach provide a street rescue team whereby they provide night shelter and hostels for those living rough on the streets.

Drugs aren’t permitted in the hostels so homeless people have to substitute their addiction with methadone prescriptions and super strong lager.

I agree with the advice given by ThamesReach. When I was staying at the bed and breakfast, a huge majority of the other residents were druggies. They may not have been begging on the streets but I would see them rubbing their hands on the day they received their income support or had to sign on for benefits. I knew and they knew exactly what the money would be going towards- their next fix.

It’s a shame, really. Once you get hooked onto drugs it a downwards spiral from there. I would see perfectly healthy individuals get sucked into the world of drugs and end up helpless and ill. They’d be so addicted they would twitch and become almost schizophrenic when due for their next fix.

I mean, how are you honestly going to get a job or get out of your depressing situation if your state of mind is so clouded and docile? The answer is you’re not. They simply find themselves as slaves to drugs for the rest of their lives. Even if they do try to kick their drug habit, by that time the long-term mental damage has already been done.

I’ve never tried drugs in my life, so I have no idea how difficult it is to kick an addiction but I’ve seen what it’s done to people who have so much to offer the world. It’s all about will power and support. If you really know where you want to be in life you will strive hard for it.

Giving money to homeless beggars is in fact contributing to the harm that they cause themselves daily. Giving food or drink will prove to be a much more worthwhile donation to anyone who is homeless- much healthier consumption for their bodies than drugs and alcohol.

Homeless But Fearless

Rebecca Williams 

As I sit on the bus 25 to Ilford, Essex my mind triggers back to the six months of my life that, deemed homeless by Redbridge council, I lived in a B&B where my daily routine involved going to the toilet trying to frantically avoid the smeared faeces on the walls and dodging the piss puddles on the floor. Mind you, it was great training for bladder control! Attempting to cook in the far from hygienic kitchen was as depressing as being surrounded by crackheads, drug dealers, alcoholics and prostitutes. Don’t even get me started about trying to bathe myself in the greasy, pubic hair ridden bathrooms! I can only laugh at it now that I have the power of hindsight. I mean, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry, and boy did I have my fare share of tears.I would quite defensively educate any ignoramouses out there that think that being homeless is “your fault!” No one chooses to be homeless. Some life situations force individuals into a path they would otherwise do anything to avoid. For instance, I desperately needed to get out of the psychological, mental and physical trauma my former guardian had inflicted on me for eight years. For instance being called “Bastard child!” by her on numerous occasions for no reason was by far out of order. Everyone has their boiling point and that was mine. I had nowhere and one else to go to (that I really trusted). My only option was to go to the council’s Homeless Prevention Unit with a small suitcase full of belongings I had managed to pack. What kept me going for those six months? Education. School had always been my escapism- especially after my adoptive mum died when I was 8. I’d find myself free amongst literature of all kinds. This was my world where no one could hurt me or control me. I excelled in school and despite being “homeless” from 17 years old, living on my own and surviving on peanuts, I still conjured up the determination to complete my A-Levels and achieved top grades.

One has to really go through hell and back in order to truly understand pain. Living off £5 for two weeks was more than a challenge but it taught me so much about materialism and tainted happiness. A philosopher once wrote: “If who I am is what I have, and I have nothing, then who am I?” So simple, yet so powerful and deep. When I was homeless, I had nothing, but it didn’t mean I was nothing. I knew who I was, where I came from and definitely where I wanted to go.

I’m at university now studying…wait for it…journalism and live in a lovely house – independent from government help. I’ve got a lot to say about a lot of issues and it’s personal experience that has really opened up my eyes to a lot of things. I pray for those still in the struggle…you’ll make it, trust me- just believe in the power you hold within you to make a change in your life for the better.

“Last stop!” the bus driver shouts. As I jump startled, I smile to myself. I’ve got a long way to go yet.