Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE



October 01 2023

One night of regret and pain looking for shelter in London, struggling to find kindness. By Jason Electricity

It was almost 7pm as I walked up to the glowing entrance of a shelter catering for street homeless men in Willesden, north London in reserved hope and unspoken relief. The temperature registered -2c. I felt exhausted, tired, cold and angry having spent days experiencing broken and disturbed sleep in doorways on the Strand.

A fellow rough sleeper, wandering past one night, had mentioned this place not requiring a referral. I believed him. I needed respite from the capital’s volatile streets.

Light snowflakes were falling as I reached the front of the unadorned construction. I strolled in. The reception area, furnished in Spartan austerity, smelt of a combination of body odour, strong bleach and purposeful neglect. Everything noticeable rang dated and untouched. I wanted to leave straight away.

A grey-haired man with furrowed lines etched across his forehead, standing behind a high wooden counter, used a hand to beckon me forward. Prominent blue eyes betrayed a world-weariness and his demeanour carried the impression of uncompromising indifference as I stepped over feeling ill-at-ease.

“You come for a bed, I assume?” an irritated voice shot. His tone rattled me. “Yes,” I said in mounting humiliation. The grumpy bastard squinted then barked for my name and date of birth. I hesitated, finding his attitude difficult to contend, so gave false information.

Seeing my nervous dithering, he glared and declared valid ID was a necessary requirement before allocation of a bed. Any confidence I maintained vanished.

A sudden panic struck my body at the realisation my lie had backfired. The hostile receptionist eyed me in impatient expectation as I rummaged through a plastic bag in ostentatious pretence, seeking a document to verify my identity. In reality, I did not possess real identification papers. I did not even own a bank card.

As the antagonist waited in sullen apathy, a frozen resignation dawned at the prospect of returning to winter outside. The inevitable tough consequences and subtle strangulation of rough living smashed their chains through the proud walls of personal preservation.

The streets howled in hellish unison for me. The tormenting memory of my duplicitous and calculated conduct still scars the narrative.