IN CONVERSATION :
Sam, Rebound (In Street. Cardiff, Wales)
Sam, volunteering with Rebound, tells me about homelessness, empty buildings, and some wider concerns.
JO: Hello Sam. Sam just asked me whether I would be willing to put some small change into … what’s the name of the charity?
JO: Is that a … ?
S: It’s a local organisation that supports homeless people and provides them with such things as sleeping bags, tents, clothes, food – just practical things that are actually going to help … you can see making a difference to their day, to their life really …
JO: yes. Is that a Cardiff specific programme – I’ll take a leaflet if I may…
S: yes. Well, basically we’ve got an office in Cardiff …
S: … in Bristol, and Birmingham. The reason we have an office in Birmingham is that we realise that a lot of people come from up North and things like that to be able to get to London and [ ] as they feel there’s a lot more money based there and things like that. So, before they even get there, we’ll give them a lot of support. We’ll give them things like [ ], and things ….
JO: on the way down ….
S: and then they don’t even have to struggle really …
JO: so basically you’re accommodating and helping them … they’re choosing what they want to do but you’re helping them do that
S: we’re supporting them in a bad situation. We can’t obviously go, “this person has to have this”. We never give them money as obviously people realise if you give someone money, it gives someone an option. It’s not like we’re going, “no, you can’t have this, you can’t have that.” We realise that obviously a lot more people on the street are going to give money to a homeless person because they realise their situation. So, they can do whatever they want with that money. However, any money that goes to this will always go to something that can help them.
JO: this is to ensure they get access to clothes, and so on …
S: exactly that. Maintenance is one of the hardest things to do when you’re on the street … is look after yourself, keep yourself clean …
JO: and you’ve just indicated you’ve got personal experience …
S: absolutely … I was 16 when I was on the street … I lived under motorway bridges … I’ve lived on the street. I’ve lived in the Salvation Army. And the Salvation Army actually changed my life around. Literally. They don’t push religion on you. Everyone thinks they do. All they are there for is you’re bettered .. to better you really. I have got myself a job now- I do telephone fundraising. I just do this in my spare time to support people. And I’ve got a private landlord. It just shows you can do it. It’s just your confidence is so low when you are on the street. It’s just really hard to push it back up there.
JO: rock bottom ….
S: exactly that. And the thing is .. when people look at you and judge you, it puts it more and more and more on you … you’re like “Am I worth it? Am I worth it?”
JO: we were just saying, even like a smile or acknowledging someone or saying “hello” makes a difference … some sort of difference …
S: absolutely … literally … that could make someone’s year .. the thing is … what we’re trying to do now is .. we’re trying to do a project where we can get 4 portable showers and a portable laundry unit because then we can go around … people can come … do their stuff and then they can go to things … because what we are also trying to provide is free suit hire and hair cuts. So, if someone goes to a job interview, they’re not being judged straight away. They can go to that interview … feel confident in their ability that they can get that job. And that’s what we’re here to do.
JO: it doesn’t sound terribly like rocket science …
JO: I personally just feel it’s a right … an adult … any age really … “Congratulations! You are a citizen. Here is your home.”
JO: It may be modest. And ecologically sound, of course …
S: there are so many buildings out here that just don’t get used for anything. So, why not … even if it’s just a training thing or something …. getting used to doing something with it because otherwise … there are buildings that have been here for 30 years just not being used … what is the point in that?
JO: in Cardiff?
S: yes …. literally
JO: is that all over the town? Or are there particular areas?
S: All around. In the Valleys. You get it around here as well. Like Queen Street. Have you been to Queen Street? There’s quite a lot of buildings above shops that are just not being used.
JO: Just sitting there vacant …
S: Some have been there … one of them I think it was … above Burger King, there’s like a little room and it’s like 70 years old. No one has done anything with it. What is the point in having all this empty space that you’re not going to do anything with, when you can help so many people? I’ve been told by homeless people themselves between Queen Street and St Mary Street, there’s 50 people living in doorways. That’s just two streets in Cardiff.
JO: that’s … it’s just disgusting, isn’t it?
S: it is. You think to yourself … where’s your compassion for your fellow human being going?
JO: well … it’s funny you should say that because … only … I made a memo about 45 minutes ago … I was just looking down a street and a guy with crutches who looked like he might be someone who’s existing on the street at the moment … skidded … put a crutch down …and lost his footing and fell over ….
S: oh dear …
JO: on his shoulder … and you could see it hurt him … there was no one watching and he was clasping his shoulder … so I was about to go and fortunately two community …
S: support officers …
JO: support people rocked up and started talking to him. So I assumed that they … do you think they would have helped?
S: oh yes. The community support round here is very good because … because so many people have been on the street for so long, they know them by name. They know them by this and that ….
3rd P: there you go!
S: ah mate! Every little helps. If everyone in the world gave 1p, think how different the world would be. There you go mate. Have a good day.
JO: well … the reason I told you is a young father with his two little girls walked past me .. just at the same moment. And one of the girls had seen him, I think, and asked their Dad what was going on. And he said, “oh, I don’t know. That weirdo over there”.
S: so, he judged him.
JO: yes. He’d just seen a man … or a human .. just fell over and really hurt himself and his reaction was that weirdo … i.e. not something one should have compassion about.
S: absolutely. It gets … my Mum was born in like [ ] … she says literally since the Millennium, she says every year, just the compassion for people gets worse … and this year it’s just exploding as you can see with people trying to do nuclear wars and things like that. You can see compassion is just getting turned away and our animal instincts are coming in like … survival of the fittest … it’s like, it doesn’t need to be that way! There’s enough of us to survive together.
JO: yes. Well actually, the whole theme of my project really is that if we don’t act decently, we are not going to survive as a species.
S: exactly that. Exactly. I’m glad somebody is switched on because everyone round here just follows. They’re sheep. They follow a lot of propaganda. There’ s a lot of propaganda out there, but there’s a lot of fact out there … but a lot of people just choose to switch off in general and just choose to ignore every bit of it. And it’s like, then you never know what’s going on.
JO: Are you hopeful? Do you think we’re at sort of ‘peak bad’?
S: well, the thing is to me … unless they actually start setting nukes off, it can’t get worse than it is really right now at the moment.
JO: that’s how I feel
S: you’ve got all these natural disasters going on and everything … you’ve got all these horrible politicians that shouldn’t even be in power .. like Trump in power … it’s not to do with like … everyone’s like “yeah, he’s this and that” … you should never have a businessman running a country. Why would you have a businessman as a politician? He’s only in it for one thing. He’s a businessman. Do you know what I am saying?
JO: yes, I think the old … the technical term for it was fascism, wasn’t it?
S: yes, don’t know if you wanted to report that on there? No. That’s completely correct.
JO: I don’t think it can really get much worse. I feel like we’ve got 5 years to turn the ship around.
S: that’s a good. Yes. I can see that. That’s a good shout … whether we do. …
JO: I mean … I think it’s a question of critical mass. I don’t think everyone is going to contribute to a direction change but we need enough people …
S: to just push the idea forward …
JO: and to do it effectively. So, I think, if enough people everywhere can act in a coordinated way, maybe we can do it.
S: there’s a bit of hope.
JO: I think so.
S: Love that.
JO: Thanks very much.
S: Any time.
3rdP: Can I just ask, do you know where the Pound Shop is?
S: the who?
3rdP: the Pound Shop.
S: the PoundLand in Queen Street. So, you’ve got to go up here, right to the very end, and round to the right…
3rdP: is it far?
S: about 10 minutes. And you can go through the shopping centre with the dog?
S: You can go through there. Cut through there and straight through.
3rdP: Straight through.
S: Straight through. You come out by Burger King. It’s by Burger King.
3rdP: Thank you
S: Have a lovely day.