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Posts Tagged ‘alcoholism’

Frantic writing for IVP continues, so only a small hello and an encouragement from me today. I’m about to head off on my annual pilgrimage to the Proc Trust Minsters’ Wives conference. I shall report back on what the well dressed vicar’s wife is wearing this season.

But I wanted to let you know that we briefly saw Gone in church on Sunday morning. He was happy and tidy and seemed well and hadn’t been drinking. He waved his house keys at us but said he was having a little trouble budgetting his electric and his bacon had gone off in the fridge. We were very pleased to see him. The Vicar asked him to come back later so he could put money on the electricity card for him but he headed off before we were able to do that.

So he’s managed about 3 months in a house and is keeping himself together. Good news!

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We were not only greeted by a scraggy old flytipped sofa in our drive on our return home last week. As we unloaded the kids, the camping gear and wet swimming towels from the car, we also spotted a couple of items which made us think that we might soon again be seeing Gone, our on/off doorstep lodger.

The traditional bottle of Frosty Jack in our flowerbed

We were proved right the next morning, when he sat on our doorstep until lunchtime and tried to persuade the Vicar to ‘do just one small thing’ for him (take him out to McDonalds). After our previous experiences with Gone, we now say that we will take him to Betel to start rehabilition, but that is all we will do for him. Anything else seems only to sustain his destructive lifestyle and terrible cycle of living rough followed by living at Her Majesty’s pleasure. In the meantime, he’s back in our drive, sometimes singing loudly at 6am, sometimes aggressive, sometimes sad and wanting to talk. Pray that we are able to treat him with grace as his behaviour seems so intractable, and pray that his self-destruction stops.

Some information that Gone is too far gone to really make use of...

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Oh dear. A loud ring on the doorbell at quarter to eight this morning. The Vicar went down to greet the postman. And alongside him, on the Vicarage doorstep, was Gone. Just like he was this time last year.

If you’ve started reading since last summer, you’ll not know that Gone is homeless man, an alcoholic, who spent six weeks or so living on our doorstep last summer. His presence was rather all-consuming at the time, so we’re a little wary of his reappearance.

He’s been in prison for ten months and is out on licence. So he only lasted a couple more months on the street after we firmly told him we were only going to help him to help himself by going to Betel. We didn’t have the strength to supply any more cheese on toast. And the Queen needed her sleep (he had a propensity to sing loudly and drunkenly under her window at 5am).

Since he left, though, Betel have opened a shop in our town, so the Vicar has gone down there with him now to see if Gone can overcome his anxieties enough to get himself onto Betel’s excellent programme. Watch this space for more news… (and if you want to read the rest of Gone’s story, there’s a box  on the right hand side of the blog, with all my previous posts from last summer).

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If you’ve been following my Twitter account, you’ll know some of this news, but here’s a summary of the latest developments with the homeless alcoholic who’s been spending every morning on our doorstep for the last couple of months.

Whilst I was away on my conference last week, the Vicar arranged to take Gone to Betel in Nottingham. He decided that they could go by train, as Gone is anxious travelling by car. They agreed that folk from Betel would meet them at the station and take Gone by himself to their centre.

The journey went well, although Gone was still anxious about going to stay with people he didn’t yet know. He is very mistrustful, which I guess is a default position when you live on the street.

Once at the station, they had a while to wait and the Vicar spent the time calming Gone and assuring him of the warm welcome he’d receive once he got to the centre. The men from Betel arrived ‘looking like angels, they radiated so much joy’. Gone seemed happy to go with them, so after a prayer, the Vicar returned to the station and headed home to relieve our babysitters.

A good way for the anxious to travel

A good way for the anxious to travel

That was Tuesday evening. On Thursday morning our doorbell rang early. It was Gone. As you can imagine, the Vicar was very disappointed.

‘There were some men I knew from prison there and I was worried they would beat me up,’ said Gone. ‘I came back by train.’

The Vicar left Gone on the step and went to consider what to do. He rang Betel, who told him that Gone hadn’t actually made it to the centre. He’d been too anxious in the car and got out before they left the station. It is a big thing, to leave your familiar haunts and your regular life, however awful that life is.

I returned that afternoon and together the Vicar and I agreed that we would tell Gone that we couldn’t help him any more, save taking him back to Betel. We’ve been realising how his constant presence has been draining us both. The Vicar’s hardly done any parish visiting since Gone has been on our doorstep, and his predicament has been sapping much of our pastoral energy and our time. Gone has spent a few days thinking about it, and yesterday he had a second telephone interview with Betel and this evening the Vicar and another local pastor are going to drive over with him, right to the front door of the centre.

We still don’t know whether Gone will make it. It’s a massive step for him to change his life in this way, so we are praying that God will give him the courage to do it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Gone was on our doorstep at 6.30am today (Polly heard him, thankfully the Vicar and I were still asleep). He rang the doorbell on and off from 6.55am, but was gone by the time we were all downstairs from breakfast at around 8 o’clock. The Queen’s bedroom is just above the front door and she told me that he was singing loudly about chocolate. There were two bottles of Frosty Jack on the drive.

Yesterday we tried to help him get sorted out with the benefits system. He said that noone was able to help him.

If you dont know it, youre in a fix

If you don't know it, you're in a fix

Gone has forgotten his National Insurance number because he’s suffering from alcoholic dementia. He has no identification documents because he’s lost them all, so is struggling to prove his identity. Without an NI number he can’t claim benefits and therefore can’t even get a place in a homeless hostel. He’s frightened, ill and frustrated. And I don’t blame him.

The Vicar let Gone use the phone to speak to the Job Centre that he’s always dealt with, but because he can’t remember his NI number, they were unable to help. You need two forms of identification – you know, utility bills, passport – and he doesn’t have them.

Later, after Gone had left, I spoke to our local Job Centre Plus, the West Midlands Probation Service (Gone is less than a month out of prison but is without a probation officer), Walsall Probation office, Sandwell Adult Social Services, Aquarius (the Sandwell alcohol service), a Sally Army hostel, the Birmingham homelessness team, the local housing office and the local emergency homelessness team. Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic and helpful, but were stumped about how to help.

The emergency homeless team said they might be able to do a bit more with some more input from him, so next time he’s here in office hours I shall call them so I can mediate for him. In the meantime I’m going to call the central National Insurance office and the mental health services to see if there is any more advice available.

At the moment he seems to falling through a hole in a system designed to stop identity theft. He’s not trying to steal an identity. He’s just forgetting his own.

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I don’t know if it’s been five or six days now that Gone has been on our doorstep every morning. This morning I took the kids out to school through the back door, so we didn’t have to stop and have a long chat at that frantic time.

When I returned (also through the back), the Vicar was flustering in the kitchen. Gone had rung the doorbell four times, each time in a more aggressive way. The Vicar had gone out to chat to him and he asked for a packet of crisps. The Vicar offered him some bread and asked him what he’d like on top. He was fine with butter.

But when the Vicar brought out crisps, toast and butter Gone shouted that he’d expected beans on toast. He threw the bread into the flower border and swore and cursed. Then he apologised and prayed with the Vicar.

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The cheese was a bit skimpy but definitely there

The Vicar began again in the kitchen, this time having said he’d make cheese on toast, and that’s when I came home. I took over the sandwich production and took it to the door.

A minute later the bell rang. ‘There’s no cheese on this,’ Gone shouted as he threw his food in the flower bed and stormed off.

I shut the door. What to do?

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It’s been another busy week at the Vicarage. Not only do we have Polly and the baby still in residence, but we’ve had Voice staying as well. Voice loves to lead singing in church and is on a week’s work experience with another local church. We are just providing accommodation for Voice as she’s spending most of her time with the other church, singing in services and meetings and helping out with their activities.

Voice is only fifteen, so it’s been interesting having her stay. We’ve been trying to get her to give us the inside track on being a teenager so we are better prepared to handle our gang when they hit those challenging years. Her capacity for sleep is enormous, even to the extent of being completely comotose through our jet-engine sounding shower pump going.

Gone has called at our front door three times in the last week, drunk, homeless and very sad. This morning I gave him a cup of coffee and a sandwich as he sat on the front step, waiting to speak to the Vicar. As he added more Frosty Jack to his coffee, he became more restless and abusive.

Frosty Jack

Frosty Jack

I was trying to find out about local hostels for him when he finally left. He couldn’t wait for the Vicar. The booze had made him too jittery. One minute he was weeping and admitting the mess he’s in, the next he was swearing and threatening to throw lighted paraffin over the front door.

I didn’t feel in any danger, though. As spoke to him softly, I could see the self-loathing in his eyes. And the Vicar and his elders were meeting in the study.

He probably won’t find a hostel place, though, cos he’s on the booze. He told me that he’s thinking about doing something to get himself locked up. At least in prison you are fed and given a warm bed. He’s 51, and has been told that he’ll die soon, given the state of his liver. He keeps warm by begging for a day saver ticket and then spending all day on the bus. That way he can cope with being out all night.

He needs too much help to stay with us. I can only pray and feed him sandwiches and gentle answers.

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