Homelessness feature: 'When everyone else wakes up and leaves the car park to go home to their family, one man had nowhere to go'.
‘IT’S just the way my life has gone,’ says the bearded man as he rests against a car parked on floor 11 of Pier Road car park. There are two carrier bags containing his only possessions by his feet.
Danny, not his real name, is among more than 100 others spending the night in the car park, raising money for Sanctuary Trust. But unlike everyone else, Danny is homeless. He doesn’t have a sleeping bag, warm clothes or even a blanket, just his two carrier bags and the clothes he is wearing – well-worn black tracksuit trousers that are too long, a black coat and body warmer.
He has been ‘sleeping rough on and off’, he says, for the past 34 years after coming to the Island on a day trip and never leaving.
When everyone wakes up and leaves the car park to go home to their family, a warm bed and a hot shower, Danny has nowhere to go. He might try to find a warm spot at Fort Regent, a corner in another car park or a bus shelter.
Sanctuary Trust currently houses 24 men, in both emergency housing in St Aubin and more independent housing at Beaumont. It costs the charity £10,000 to feed and house one man for a year at their facility in St Aubin. The charity aims to help the men get their lives back on track.
Hot soup and drinks, a cinema screening of A Street Cat Named Bob, a film about a homeless man who overcomes addiction with the help of his cat, and live music performances were offered to the fundraisers on Saturday.
But for Danny and others who live this street life everyday, such luxuries don’t exist. Those taking part in the sleep out have security guards, an enclosed space away from the busy town and cardboard mats handed to them on arrival.
But for Jersey’s rough-sleepers – Danny says there are at least five he knows of – there is a battle every night to find a safe and quiet place to bed down. He says he often finds cardboard at the arcade on the Parade and that Sand Street is where he normally sleeps.
As it approaches 9.30pm it starts to get colder and many of the fundraisers begin to get into their sleeping bags, but Danny remains standing. He’s talking to those from the charity Grace Trust and Senator Kristina Moore. Danny tells them he is used to the cold while he struggles to open a straw for a carton of juice with his tobacco-stained fingers. Later he enjoys a lollipop, saying he ‘hasn’t had one of these for years’.
Senator Moore, who is on the board of trustees for Sanctuary Trust, gives up a blanket and hands it to Danny. She asks how she can help and listens to his story.
In his southern Irish accent, Danny explains how he can access the Shelter Trust in Kensington Place for warm food and to borrow a blanket, but that he has no access to a warm shower and spends his day in the Library reading books about his home country. The shelter has no space for him to sleep, he says.
The clock strikes midnight and many are wrapped in their sleeping bags and snoring can be heard above those racing their cars around the car park. The lights stay on all night and an irritating beeping noise keeps some awake.
As it approaches 1am Danny moves to the corner where he has chosen to sleep and settles on his cardboard, under the blanket donated by Senator Moore. He jokes about his night of luxury as he lays his head down.
Many start rising from their makeshift beds at 5am as the seagulls squawk loudly. Danny checks the time on his dated mobile phone and is handed a warm drink and a bacon roll.
As everyone leaves to head back to their homes, Danny walks slowly – with a slight limp – down the hill towards Mulcaster Street. He has no idea where he is going to go to pass the day. Of course, unlike the rest of his car park camp mates, he’ll do it all again until a space becomes available in one of the Island’s shelters.
lTo date, more than £8,500 has been raised via the Sanctuary Trust’s JustGiving page. The charity, which is full to capacity, hopes to raise £10,000 – which will house and feed a man next year.
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