I've been dithering about writing this post for the last week or so, but it's something that's bothering me more and more and writing about it might help me organise my thoughts a bit - so here goes.
Monday morning after the Royal Wedding I left my flat to head off for work to find someone sleeping rough in the corridor. The lock on the outside door of our building doesn't always catch properly despite, or perhaps because of, seemingly endless repairs, and frankly I'm surprised that something like this hasn't happened before.
I'm also surprised at how much it bothered me. 7.20 am (when I should have left by 7.10) is no time to try and wake someone up and argue them out of a building, so on my own and with no idea how aggressive this man might be, I didn't. He'd managed to vomit at the top of the front stairs where he was sleeping (the smell of dettol on the carpet has now faded, the smell of sick has not) and the back stairs (tiled so easier to clean at least) which made nobody feel any happier.
More than anything though it's the feeling of uncertainty I now have coming and going from the building. I want to feel safe between flat door and street door, not find myself in an enclosed space with an unknown quantity. Another neighbour had apparently called the police the night before to get this guy removed, but they were to busy to do anything - which isn't encouraging either.
The other side of this is that for the last 18 months the number of rough sleepers, beggars, and general con artists around town has been noticeably increasing. The latter are those reasonably well dressed, super friendly individuals who regularly claim to have lost car park/bus/train tickets and are in need of money to get home. The same faces come back every few months. My street is far from the train station, a bus stop, or the kind if car park you need a ticket to get out of and they really piss me off.
The number of beggars in the streets has exploded, pretty much every corner, and every cash point has someone pitched outside it - some clearly more genuinely in need than others, and over all so many that any charitable impulse is overwhelmed.
A far more worrying thing though is the general increase in rough sleepers though. All through the winter, even when it was really cold I was walking past people every morning on my way to work. The stretch that has suitable doorways is about a quarter of a mile, and up to a couple of years ago I might expect to see 1, maybe 2, people. In the last week I've counted as many as 9. Some are more or less permanent fixtures, others come and go. This is just one street in a city, when I change my route I see other bodies in other doorways
To my eyes this is a crisis point; to many people are falling through the cracks. I don't have any answers, or much hope that things are going to improve soon. I don't like thinking about what might happen if they get worse, but it's hard to avoid doing so when this is what I see every morning.