Day 2 – continuing diary

I made my way to Piccadilly gardens again, it was a cold, damp morning and I was extremely tired. I had 3 ½ hours before the Booth Centre opened where I could get a cup of coffee but the thing I was quickly realising was that time just seemed to stand still. I walked around town to kill some time working my way through the alleyways and back streets I saw other guys still asleep in doorways and some were up and about like myself. The Booth centre is based at Manchester Cathedral and when I arrived at 9 ‘o’ clock there was already a group of guys helping themselves to tea, coffee and soup in the ‘‘wet’’ garden, which is a safe place where drinkers can go without having to worry about being moved on. Booth centre also run various activities and offer help, support and a friendly face to the homeless amongst others. It really is a fantastic little service. I was able to have a few cups of coffee and they were much welcomed after a difficult first night. I recognised a few of the guys there as they were also clients of Mustard Tree and I got speaking to one man in particular. Julius who recognised me from times he had been in Mustard Tree. He is from Slovakia and has been in the U.K. for 4 years. He was desperately trying to get enough money together for a bottle of cider, I had 34 pence and as that wasn’t enough to even get myself a cup of tea I gave it to him and he invited me along. We made our way to tescos and he went in to get his drink but he came out empty handed and quite distressed, he was 6 pence short and the lady would not let him off. He had earlier told me that he needed a drink first thing in the morning to stop his shakes and he was shaking quite badly, fortunately he was able to beg the money he needed off a lady. She gave him 10 pence and he said thank you very much kind lady and gave her the 4 pence difference back! After he got his bottle he grabbed 2 Metros off a vendor and we went to a quiet place he knew just by Shudehill Street where he could have his drink in peace, the first went down well but after the second drink he threw up…. A lot! He kindly offered me a drink, which I declined and we started chatting again. He was telling me one of the main reasons he came to this country was because he had serious heart problems and had had a few heart attacks but he could get free medication here. He told me he couldn’t get benefits because he had lost his I.D. and he survived by selling the big issue and begging, he was also very grateful for the services that helped him get by, singling out Mustard Tree, Booth Centre and Cornerstones as his ‘top 3’ I wondered how he could be given citizenship here yet not be given accommodation? I had noticed a lot of the guys at booth centre were not U.K. citizens. Are we welcoming people from overseas onto our streets? That’s what it seemed to me but not to him, he told me he loved Manchester and gushed about what a beautiful city it was and the people in it, but he told me he longed to get home to Slovakia to see his children for Christmas. I hope he makes it. I spent the whole morning with Julius talking everything from football to families and life in general. I could easily have spent the whole day with him. I left him as I had to get to Longsight to check out the Roby drop in centre and he was en route to Mustard Tree for some fresh clothing. He did invite me round to the squat that he was staying in but I knew it was unlikely I would make it so I thanked him for his time and he thanked me for mine, we shook hands and went our separate ways. I have not seen him since and hope he is well, he was such a genuine and sincere person and being able to spend time with him really gave me a boost for the day. After leaving Julius I started making my way to The Roby in Longsight as I had heard they have a drop in on Tuesdays. It was a long walk and by the time I arrived I was shattered but worse still I had arrived late and they had stopped serving food, I was offered some pizza but I really wasn’t that hungry anyway, my appetite had deserted me so far. One of our soup run leaders Tony was there however and he bought me a cup of coffee (thanks Tony!) and I chatted with him. Again it was good just to see a friendly face and the staff there were very nice. After I left there I started making my way back in to town again the walk was awfully long and my legs and feet were really starting to hurt.

I arrived back in town and made my way to Exchange Square so I could watch a bit of T.V. the weather was mild but I was starting to feel unwell, I had a sore throat and a terrible cough and was feeling generally rubbish. After another long day I made my way to Piccadilly I was sat in the gardens when it started to rain. Knowing I couldn’t afford to get wet I went and stood under the shelter between the bars that line the gardens. Maybe I wasn’t the type of person they wanted around there because I was then approached by a police officer who told me to move on. ‘I will when it’s stopped raining, I really don’t want to get wet as I’m sleeping out tonight’ I said to him but his reply shocked me. ‘That’s not my problem’…. Well where do you expect me to go? I asked him. His reply to this question really made me so angry yet totally deflated me…He simply said I should go anywhere I couldn’t be seen! I could not believe it. I was stunned. I never said anything back, I knew he meant it so I left. I got soaked. I fell asleep again in St. Annes Square by the church. I was woken at about 5:30 again by the street cleaners but I was in pain.