Saturday, 12th February, 2011.

A Hole In The Safety Net

He is in his early twenties and has a few mental difficulties.   Due to a great degree to those difficulties, he is now homeless.

Sometimes, he finds a bed for the night in a “shelter” – a house converted by the local Council to help those who would sleep rough on the streets of that often-snobby little Welsh town.

Those wanting a bed have to queue each evening to find out whether or not there is room for them.   If not, they have to find their own sleeping area in the town.

It has been a cold, cold Winter.   Lads in his situation find it hard to find work or a permanent place to live.   One room is all he needs which he can use as a base while he tries – with help from his few caring friends – to build some sort of life for himself.   He looks for jobs but, in these hard times and with his past track-record, finding something to get him off the dole will be a long and uphill journey.

He has few possessions with him – most of his belongings have been left in friends’ homes, or totally lost.   He has hung onto his mobile-phone.   At least that gives him occasional contact with people who are not druggies and drop-outs.

His phone rang the other day.   It was someone from the Council who called.   His hopes rose when the caller told him that there were a couple of rooms available on a permanent basis;  rooms set aside for those who are homeless.

However, the voice informed him that, though there were rooms available, he did not qualify for one.

I trust you can imagine how that information hit him.   His hopes crashed, his hopelessness grew.

The question which we – as a caring Welsh society – must ask is:  “How do we stop such crass administrative blunders?”   That office-wallah receives a proper wage.   That office-wallah lives in a permanent home.   That office-wallah mixes with people who have jobs and housing.

But that call – and it must be just one of many in similar vein – shows that protocols override caring.   Let us try, constantly, to put back into Welsh society that once-famous care and neighbourliness.   And we must do that to protect not only the vulnerable, but ourselves.

For we do not know when we ourselves may hit harder times.

That is all I have to say this week.

Archie Lowe


About Archie Lowe

Though not born in Wales, I have lived and worked here for many years now. I love the place and love that mercurial thing "Welshness". I have been accused of being "a Taffophile" - which is pretty near the truth. The question I ask whenever some idea comes up for the whole of the UK is: "What's in it for Wales". I believe in an independent Wales and am so pleased that our Assembly is a big step on that road.
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