Jenny told me she and Gabriel were going to be in the newspaper. Initially I thought this would be a good thing, because it might spark people’s interest in them, and engender some help. The reality was the furthest thing from my hope, and even Jenny knew that it might be a double-edged sword.
The article came about because a local taxi driver complained about their home in the alcove. Apparently it’s a “disgusting mess” and clutters up one of the historic 13th century monuments of the city (the old walls…which are one side of a city car park…and are used as toilets by assorted anyones who can’t find one open). You might hope that the man’s distaste for the ‘mess’ would spur him to help clear it up, by offering assistance. Your hopes would be in vain.
The taxi driver’s opinion, though lacking compassion, is far from the only one which takes that view. I made the mistake of visiting the online version of the article (HERE) and the bile and hatred and prejudice poured out towards Jenny and Gabriel in the comments left me sick to my stomach and really upset. I advised Jenny against looking at them.
Another complaint was about Jenny’s washing being hung out to dry and how it was being done in public. Seriously, where would he LIKE her to put it? Out on the balcony of her penthouse suite? Get the maid to do it? At the day centre (for homeless people here) there is one washing machine, which doesn’t work very well (my next project) and one volunteer who launders All The Things. And who prioritises towels, because the people who come to the day centre DEFINITELY need to shower. They need clean clothes, too, but REALLY to shower, and…well…they just need a lot, and the resources aren’t there.
He was also offended by the group who congregate around Jenny, and said that sometimes “as many as seven” people are loitering in the car park with her. Well, that’s true. There are at LEAST seven, who come and go:
Gabriel – her fiance -a Polish mountain man recovering from life-changing injuries. He has eclectic music taste, complex medical needs, and thinks he looks like Jason Statham.
Beki – who is back on the streets having been in a hostel where the staff cared so little, someone hung themself. She freaked out and moved back, because she feels safer with Jenny. Sad to say, she probably is. She’s loud and lairy and fun and sweet and scatty and has complex medical and mental health needs.
Addie – absolutely the toughest guy I have ever met, but with twinkly blue eyes and a ready smile.
Jodie – whose hair might be any colour of the rainbow, who loves Hello Kitty, and is sweet as can be, but with a story to break your heart.
Kevin – light-fingered, hilarious, sweet as can be and really TRYING to make a go of it. He doesn’t do drugs or drink, and wants to stay out of prison and find a way forwards in life. He’s hilarious and a total wind-up merchant, but with a heart of gold.
Lisa – Kevin’s girlfriend, who seems sweet and funny and (as far as I’m aware) has a hostel place at the moment, which is great.
Various others, too, but those are the people I see there most. And I’m SO HAPPY to know them all, and to know that in my heart, they are part of my Village. They matter to me and I’m delighted that they have accepted me and brought me into their group. Gabriel even calls me “sister”, which is lovely.
So I HOPE he saw me there, that taxi driver, and I HOPE that I got inadvertently referenced as one of these messy, disgusting people who clutters up the city’s ancient monuments, and I HOPE that somehow, some way, this article can be a launch-pad for compassion, because I’m going to write to the paper – to ALL the papers, and refute the callousness of this article; I am going to condemn its lack of compassion and I am going to IMPLORE people to realise that the ‘homeless’ who are making a mess of their beloved architecture are a) PEOPLE, and b) WOULD NOT BE THERE if there was another way.
And I’m going to ask them to give. Even if it’s just a couple of pounds. Because if they could all stop to value human life in its challenges and instead of judging, and offer a donation of less than the cost of a ticket to park in the damn car-park, then JENNY WOULD HAVE A HOME.
And I would be happy.
I need to reach these people and let them know about The Village, and that one of its people needs them.
THAT’S my next plan.