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Homeless London welcomes winter

Emdad Rahman

Addiction – stress – domestic violence – mental health – broken relationships – grief – unemployment – despair. These are all very real catalysts for homelessness.

It’s easy to forget that the homeless are people, people who have history. Over the years I’ve met a former glamour model, champion weightlifter, banker and a diplomat – all individuals who have made notable contributions to society. It’s easy to walk past that dishevelled and grubby person cowering in the corner, trying their utmost to blend into the shadows – but before we do, let’s step into their shoes.

Tonight the temperature was harsh. Stratford City is usually bustling with activity, but all visitors had either gone home or had decided to savour the warmth of the local establishments. Our usual homeless guests were nowhere to be seen.

Jaf and I ditched the table and went for a walk in the Stratford Centre. We bumped into John, who had two helpings of the packed boxes we were carrying. I said I had missed seeing him for months. He told us he’d just come out after a short prison stretch. “It’s better in there,” he said. He’s one of the most charismatic and kindest souls on the circuit. His spiral into despair began after he lost his son in a tragic hit and run incident. John pointed out some corners where we met a few homeless friends.

None of the regulars were there tonight – Amanda, Bill, Rose, Tomasz, Paul, Viktoria. One gentleman took numerous boxes, loudly expressing his thanks several times. He said he hadn’t eaten a proper meal since Wednesday and was stocking up. His companion was silent – his ravenous mouth was full with chicken.

Tonight was a different experience for me and a new one for Jaf on his debut stint. We walked around. Although several of our regulars were missing (I pray they’re all well), we made new friends. The service was slower and the interaction was more personalised than normal.

Thank you Ranu & Idrees for the food. A thought popped into my head: in the end, only kindness matters. As I drove away in my old banger, I put the heating up to maximum.

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