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Archive for the ‘Inner city’ Category

Here’s a couple of photos I took last week – one with a sofa & an armchair out on the street (a la James Turner Street) and another as I went, rather surprisingly, for a run in our local park, where the bluebells were magnificently spread under trees as I plodded round on my Couch to 5K route.

People move house a lot round here, so we often see mattresses or other furniture out, as things are left in the hope of collection. Many don’t have cars to take stuff to the dump so it just sits there until – until I’m not sure what – they get a friend to take it away perhaps? Recently we’ve been wondering where some lovely kids who were regulars in church and in our Kids Club have got to. Sadly it looks like they moved after Easter some time. We didn’t get to say goodbye, which makes us sad. We’re praying they’ve ended up in a place where they’ll find a welcoming church to join.

Some of the things we see on our streets are reminders of the brokenness of our area – the poverty and the mobility which breaks community. But the bluebells helped me remember the Lord’s kindness and generosity. There was no need for him to make bluebells so shockingly beautiful. But he did, and they have been gladdening my heart since I saw them.

 

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Gone has been staying in our chicken shed for a few weeks now. It’s dry and sheltered and he feels safe there. We haven’t seen him much because he can get in there through a side gate, so he’s mostly been coming in to sleep and then leaving without knocking on the kitchen window or the front door. He spends the day on the streets and visiting other helpful Vicarages.

It had been a few days and I mentioned to the Vicar that we’d not seen him for a bit, so the Vicar turned off the light in the shed, which ensures that Gone will come and talk to us to get the light put back on. That was last night, and then this morning we were told by a friend that Gone has gone. He’s gone back to prison. And that’s why we’ve not seen him. He’s not going to be away for long, but at least he’ll be dry and sheltered and fed for a few weeks.

GoneOnce again he will be inside for a short while and then released with money and a room in a hostel allocated to him. He’ll spend the money on Frosty Jack and buying a mobile phone and a radio or video camera, and he’ll come to our doorstep and tell us he’s not going to the hostel because he doesn’t trust people in hostels. And I expect he’ll ask to sleep in our shed again and we’ll go through the cycle of approaching various agencies and wondering what on earth can be done for him.

Sometimes I think this loop will continue for ever. He’s someone who cannot really cope with the system there is. Over the years many kindhearted people have helped him, but he’s never managed any long term stability.

So please pray for him, and for those of us who know him and want something better for him. We have a short break now and it would be good to think through some options for him. Pray that he’d work out what he should do himself, and pray we’d be wise too and have the energy to help again. Pray for Gone.

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Actually, this is about the lack of them. When I see kids dropping litter (a not irregular occurrence), I ask them to pick it up and explain that there are no cleaning fairies and that we all have to pay to have someone from the council to clear up after us on the street. Sadly, when stuff is dropped in our churchyard, it’s unlikely that the council will clear up, and so it’s left to our congregation. We often see bags of clothes dumped on the streets around here and then rifled through. I’m not sure who does it – but it’s jolly annoying. And here is this morning’s cleaning challenge – or opportunity, if you want a handbag, which is what this collection seemed to mainly consist of:

IMG-20131210-00275

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On my way through the tow-un yesterday I stopped to buy fruit and veg at one of our great selection of stalls on the open air market. As I discussed the varieties of potatoes with the cheery moustachioed stall holder he started asking me a few questions:

Where you from?MC900441718

Where you live?

Who you live with?

We chatted away, I told him about living with my husband, three kids, two lodgers, a cat, a rodent and a fish, how we didn’t live in a council house because my husband was a vicar and the house came with the job. Then he said:

You have a grrrreat body!

and gave me some free bananas. Since I’d just been at a gym class where I could barely keep up, I have to (rather shallowly) say that this rather made my day…

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We get a few things chucked over the wall into the Vicarage garden – mostly it’s stray footballs and wrappers from fast food that greet us on the rare occasions we venture into the borders with gloves and trugs. But yesterday I spotted something a little more unexpected as we spent a day with a few friends from theological college. I gazed out of the window as we were chatting and saw A DOG.

Scampy dog

Since our garden is fenced in pretty well, this is not something we’ve encountered before. And you’d think someone would have missed the poor thing. So we went out and found a rather smelly, but quite friendly hound, who’d obviously been sleeping under a tree. It may have been there for a day or two, although the Vicar thinks he would have spotted it when chopping wood yesterday. And although the garden gates were open for a while, it seems more likely that someone had sent the poor animal over our wall. He had no collar on.

We called a couple of doggy local friends to see if they recognised it but nobody did. So then we called Sandwell Council’s out of hours dog warden. Who was with us in less than an hour. He told us that our canine visitor was about 4 years old and not microchipped. Then the warden popped him on a lead whilst he wolfed down some dog food that the Queen had run out to buy for him.

He seemed like a very sweet even-tempered dog, and I might have been tempted to keep him if I hadn’t known that the Vicarage cat would object outrageously. So he’s been taken to City Dogs Home in Stoke – they’ve not got his pic up yet, but we’re going to keep an eye on it and give them a call to see how he’s doing. They take 7 days to check them out before starting the rehoming process. It’s sad to think someone abandoned him, and a bit annoying that they were so cheeky as to leave him in our garden, but we were impressed with the warden and the system which enabled him to be taken care of so quickly.

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It’s been a bit of a busy start to the year so I’ve been rather off blogging. But yesterday I went for a walk with Dreamer and Freddie the Pooch. We headed to our local park and the frost was so beautiful that I took a couple of pics. Glorious, eh? Only slightly marred by the three young couples snogging under separate trees. At 3pm on a Tuesday. Not sure what that was about.

Tower blocks looking mysterious in the frost

Tower blocks looking mysterious in the frost

Freddie pooching about

Freddie pooching about

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Good news came in about Gone tonight. He’s been sleeping in our outside loo for over 2 weeks following a similar amount of time under our hedge during some truly atrocious weather. We’d got quite used to his taps on the kitchen window asking for a hot water bottle to be filled. More tricky to get used to was him leaning on the doorbell for far too long, usually when the kids are already in bed.

He’d managed to burn almost all his housing bridges in our area, and we were beginning to despair of finding a solution for him. Even Betel said they couldn’t take him before Christmas, when all their teams are busy fundraising, as they said they wouldn’t have the people needed to support someone so vulnerable.

But somehow Gone has managed to find some accommodation that will take him. And our friend the lovely Rev Very Benevolent spent all day today driving Gone about to find the necessary paperwork to sign into his warm new room. We are grateful to God for this provision for Gone, who we have become really quite fond of. He’s almost like an extra child – sweet and frustrating in pretty much equal measure. And now it’s time to think of some strategies to keep Gone in his new home and away from our damp and uncomfortable hedge.

We pray especially that Gone would have the support he needs to deal with his cycle of alcohol, homelessness and frustration. And that all those who have been concerned with him (there are a good many of us I can tell you, from churches, council and other agencies) will be able to get together to put some of this support in place. Next year I don’t want to be posting another pre-Christmas story of how Gone has just found somewhere to live after spending weeks sleeping in our garden.

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