During the cold snap a few weeks ago I was waiting at the side of the church hall as the Orange Sky van was manoeuvring in to the driveway. It was bitterly cold, and being the cold weather wimp that I am, I was not coping very well with it. I was standing outside with an Olive Way guest who frequently makes use of the laundry services provided by Orange Sky, and who was patiently waiting to put his clothes through the machine. But on this day, the machines weren’t working. As the crew were scrambling around to figure out what to do about it one of the ladies came and sheltered under the glass walkway trying to stay warm and dry.
“Boy it’s cold”, she said, “I’d hate to be homeless in this weather.” At which point our guest and I looked silently at each other with a wry smile. We had been talking earlier about how he manages to stay warm and dry when experiencing homelessness. He said to me that, whilst we’ve only been feeling the cold since the cold snap, he and the other homeless folks have been feeling the cold for the past couple of months. To him this was nothing different, just a more intense version of what he’s already been experiencing. To get by he uses a what he described as a very warm blanket, and that was all he needed to get through a cold night. The only drawback was having to get up for the toilet.
After she spoke, the Orange Sky volunteer noticed the silent communication between our guest and myself and quickly caught on. It turned out to be a good thing, as she was able to prioritise his laundry once they got the van up and running.
As I write there is another cold snap. Once again, my heart goes out to those who are homeless. I’ve been contemplating offering another day at Olive Way, to dovetail with the fabulous take away lunches up at the Lamb and Flag. Nothing fancy, just a warm place to hang out over winter whilst waiting for the lunch and whatever other services to commence. We’re keen for this to be a conversation between those likely to use Olive Way in the morning, and those that are offering services to the community, and for it to be led as much as possible by those using it. Watch this space…