Friday, 21 December 2007

Too Many People

There are too many homeless people on the streets of Truro. There are too many second home owners sitting in their cars on the M5 and A30, massing for the Christmas exodus. There are too many cancer patients at the oncology and haemotology centres at The Royal Cornwall Hospital. There are too many fat cats and I'm-alright-Jacks, and too many little match girls, shivering as they wait for punters in the frost. There are too many empty churches and reconstructed rectories. There are too many turkeys and way too many mince pies.

Took two coats down to the crisis appeal at the cathedral. Two old coats that had kept me warm for far too long, and far too long ago. I wore them on trips between Helsinki and St Petersburg (then Leningrad), and they kept me warm in twenty degrees of frost.

Then I gathered together my hoard of shampoos and contitioners and body lotions and handcream and moisturiser samples, garnered from four and five star hotels in Europe and the USA these last few years and put them in a gold-coloued tote bag, marked for the attention of homeless women. And it isn't enough.

Anybody can be homeless. Anybody. Even those mortgage-free people like me. Anybody can be homeless. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a report about a former news journalist, who had co-anchored the national news on occasion, but still managed to run up more than two hundred thousand pounds worth of debt. He's homeless now. And children are homeless, And mentally ill people. And vulnerable young women. And ex married couples, homelessly single, sleeping in their cars and office floors. In the old days, vicarages used to open their doors to the homeless, but now there's aren't many vicarages running as homes for the clergy (there aren't many stipended clergy), so shelters are opened by social workers for eight days over the Christmas season. There aren't enough social workers. There aren't enough shelters.

The Bishop of Truro, who always gives an apposite address, said the message of Christmas was: 'Don't be afraid.' Fear not, said the Angel, for I bring you tidings of great joy. The greatest joy for me was giving two old coats and a hoard of unwanted toiletries. I looked in my wardrobe and counted eight coats altogether, not counting the two in the trunk which I gave away, and my grandma's old furs, waiting for my daughter to give them a decent burial. That's too many coats for anyone. But still there aren't enough coats...

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